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December 1973

Serum Glycoside Levels by Rubidium Assay

Author Affiliations

Portland, Ore

From the Division of Cardiology and the Nuclear Medicine Service, Veterans Administration Hospital and University of Oregon Medical School, Portland.

Arch Intern Med. 1973;132(6):823-830. doi:10.1001/archinte.1973.03650120031006

Serum glycoside concentrations were measured by rubidium 86 assay in 88 patients on maintenance digitalis therapy not manifesting digitalis toxicity and in 39 patients manifesting digitalis toxicity by cardiac arrhythmias. The nontoxic range and median in nanograms per milliliter were 0 to 5 (1.2) for digoxin, 0 to 38 (20.5) for digitoxin, and 2 to 40 (23) for digitalis leaf. Toxic levels (digoxin, 2 to 44 [5.5]; digitoxin, 15 to 56 [37]; digitalis leaf, 31 to 64 [38]) were significantly higher (P <.001)—half above upper nontoxic limits and 37 higher than the nontoxic medians. Serial measurements demonstrated prolonged glycoside excretion rates in all eight patients with toxic reactions to digoxin (half-life, 2.9 to 10 days) and in eight of 13 patients with toxic reactions to digitoxin or digitalis leaf (half-life, 4.9 to 9.9 days). Serum glycoside concentrations and excretion rates are useful in managing patients with suspected digitalis toxic reactions.