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      The Use of Digoxin-Specific Fab Fragments for Severe Digitalis Intoxication in Children

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      New England Journal of Medicine

      New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM/MMS)

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          Treatment of 150 cases of life-threatening digitalis intoxication with digoxin-specific Fab antibody fragments. Final report of a multicenter study.

          One hundred fifty patients with potentially life-threatening digitalis toxicity were treated with digoxin-specific antibody fragments (Fab) purified from immunoglobulin G produced in sheep. The dose of Fab fragments was equal to the amount of digoxin or digitoxin in the patient's body as estimated from medical histories or determinations of serum digoxin or digitoxin concentrations. The youngest patient received Fab fragments within several hours of birth, and the oldest patient was 94 years old. Seventy-five patients (50%) were receiving long-term digitalis therapy, 15 (10%) had taken a large overdose of digitalis accidentally, and 59 (39%) had ingested an overdose of digitalis with suicidal intent. The clinical response to Fab was unspecified in two cases, leaving 148 patients who could be evaluated. One hundred nineteen patients (80%) had resolution of all signs and symptoms of digitalis toxicity, 14 (10%) improved, and 15 (10%) showed no response. After termination of the Fab infusion, the median time to initial response was 19 minutes, and 75% of the patients had some evidence of a response by 60 minutes. There were only 14 patients with adverse events considered to possibly or probably have been caused by Fab; the most common events were rapid development of hypokalemia and exacerbation of congestive heart failure. No allergic reactions were identified in response to Fab treatment. Of patients who experienced cardiac arrest as a manifestation of digitalis toxicity, 54% survived hospitalization.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)
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            Digitalis. Mechanisms of action and clinical use.

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              Reversal of advanced digoxin intoxication with Fab fragments of digoxin-specific antibodies.

              Purified Fab fragments of ovine digoxin-specific antibodies reversed severe digoxin intoxication in a patient who had taken 22.5 mg of the drug with suicidal intent. Atrioventricular block with extreme bradycardia was temporarily managed by pacing, but progressive, intractable hyperkalemia (serum potassium of 8.7 meq per liter) with increasing pacing threshold and progressive intraventricular conduction delay was controlled only after infusion of 1100 mg of Fab. Sinus rhythm returned 10 minutes after completion of Fab infusion. Within five hours, the serum potassium concentration fell to 4.0 meq per liter. Free digoxin concentrations in serum fell sharply to undetectable levels, whereas total serum digoxin concentration concomitantly increased 12-fold. Renal excretion of digoxin bound to Fab was documented. Reversal of toxicity was not accompanied by hemodynamic instability, and antibodies to sheep Fab fragments were not detected in the patient's serum after treatment. Thus, purified digoxin-specific Fab fragments are capable of rapid reversal of advanced digoxin toxicity.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                New England Journal of Medicine
                N Engl J Med
                New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM/MMS)
                0028-4793
                1533-4406
                June 25 1992
                June 25 1992
                : 326
                : 26
                : 1739-1744
                Article
                10.1056/NEJM199206253262604
                © 1992

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