BACKGROUND: Prophylactic digoxin is widely used in patients undergoing pulmonary surgery to prevent or control cardiac arrhythmias, but whether it is helpful or not is uncertain. METHODS: An open, controlled randomised prospective clinical study of 111 patients was undertaken to compare the incidence of cardiac arrhythmias in the 58 patients who received preoperative digoxin and the 53 who did not. RESULTS: Cardiac arrhythmia occurred in half (29/58) of those given prophylactic digoxin and in 36% (19/53) of those who were not. The overall incidence of arrhythmia was 43%, with no statistically significant difference between the groups. CONCLUSION: Cardiac arrhythmias remain an important complication of pulmonary surgery and the incidence is not reduced by prophylactic digoxin.
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