Study objective - The aim of the study was to evaluate the effect of chronic digoxin therapy on cardiac sensitivity to isoprenaline.Design - Responses to isoprenaline were examined in both conscious and anaesthetised dogs pretreated with digoxin, and compared with conscious or anaesthetised controls with no digoxin pretreatment. Isoprenaline infusion (0.001-0.1 μg·kg-1·min-1) in pretreated groups was performed 7 d after digoxin dosing was stopped, when plasma digoxin concentrations were zero.Subjects - Mongrel dogs of either sex (15-25 kg) were used in the experiments, done under anaesthetic. They were divided into three groups (n=6 per group): group A were controls; groups B and C were pretreated with digoxin 500-750 μg.d-1, for 14 d (B) and 7 d (C). For the experiments in conscious animals, six mongrel dogs (25-30 kg) and two greyhounds (25-30 kg) were used; group D (n=6) were treated with digoxin for 20-40 d; group E (n=2) were treated for 7 d.Measurements and results - Heart rate, blood pressure and myocardial contractility (dP/dt: integrated isometric tension) were measured during isoprenaline infusion. Digoxin pretreatment for 14 d did not significantly change the chronotropic or depressor responses to isoprenaline in anaesthetised dogs but there was a 10-fold increase in inotropic sensitivity to isoprenaline following withdrawal. When the pretreatment period was reduced to 7 d there was no change in any of the responses to isoprenaline. In conscious dogs there was also a significant increase in inotropic sensitivity to isoprenaline after digoxin withdrawal, but this was not so marked as in anaesthetised dogs. In conscious dogs chronotropic sensitivity to isoprenaline was also increased.Conclusions - It is possible that the inotropic effect maintained during the 2 weeks of digoxin treatment may cause substantial withdrawal of sympathetic tone to the heart, with a consequent increase in β adrenoceptor number or sensitivity, which could be detected a week after digoxin withdrawal.
- β adrenoceptor