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The effect of calcium chloride in treating hyperkalemia due to acute digoxin toxicity in a porcine model.

BACKGROUND: The administration of intravenous (IV) calcium to treat hyperkalemia resulting from digoxin poisoning is considered potentially dangerous, based on a body of older literature which, in sum, reported increased cardiac glycoside toxicity with calcium administration (increased arrhythmias, higher rate of death).

OBJECTIVE: This pilot study sought to determine if the administration of calcium chloride when compared to normal saline would affect time to death when given to hyperkalemic, digoxin toxic swine.

METHODS: Digoxin IV at 0.25 mg/kg was determined to be appropriately toxic for this study. When arrhythmias consistent with hyperkalemia developed, animals were given either IV calcium chloride (CaCl) bolus (10 mg/kg, Group 1, n=6) or normal saline volume equivalent (Group 2, n=6). Three intervals were observed: Interval 1: time interval from digoxin administration (T0) to when ECG changes consistent with hyperkalemia developed (at which point calcium chloride or normal saline was administered); Interval 2: time interval from the development of ECG changes consistent with hyperkalemia to asystole; Interval 3: time interval from digoxin administration to asystole. Both groups were monitored for changes in heart rhythms, serum potassium levels, and time to asystole.

RESULTS: The intravenous digoxin dose of 0.25 mg/kg induced hyperkalemia, arrhythmias, and death approximately 1 h after administration in all animals studied. Group 1: Interval 1 averaged 18.75 (S.D. +/-7.96) min, Interval 2 averaged 16.75 (S.D. +/-17.17) min, and Interval 3 averaged 35.5 (S.D. +/-14.49) min range; Group 2: average Interval 1 24.8 (S.D. +/-4.71) min, Interval 2 averaged 19.5 (S.D.+/-15.92), Interval 3 averaged 44.3 (S.D. +/-13.80) minutes. There was no statistically significant difference between the groups at any time interval, Interval 1 (p=0.43), Interval 2 (p=0.65), Interval 3 (p=0.40). There was no difference in serum potassium throughout the study period.

CONCLUSION: The administration of intravenous CaCl in the setting of hyperkalemia from acute digoxin toxicity did not affect mortality or time to death at the dose administered.

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