Plasma exchange for the removal of digoxin-specific antibody fragments in renal failure: Timing is important for maximizing clearance

M. Zdunek, A. Mitra, M. H. Mokrzycki

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Life-threatening digoxin toxicity may be effectively treated with digoxin-specific antibody fragments (Fab). However, in end-stage renal disease, the digoxin-Fab complexes persist in the circulation and dissociate, potentially resulting in rebounding free digoxin levels and the recurrence of symptomatic toxicity. To prevent this rebound phenomenon, plasma exchange (PE) has been implemented for the removal of the digoxin-Fab complexes in renal failure. However, there is only one case report describing its use in this setting. To better determine the optimal timing of PE after Fab administration, we performed two PE treatments (each preceded by Fab) in a patient with acute renal failure and acute digoxin poisoning. The admission serum digoxin level was 21 ng/mL. The timing of the PE treatments relative to Fab dosing was as follows: the first PE was performed 26 hours post-Fab, and the second PE was performed 2.5 hours post-Fab. The plasma ultrafiltrate digoxin concentration was 2.5-fold greater when PE was performed 2.5 hours versus 26 hours after Fab administration (19.9 versus 8.1 ng/mL). The combined total amount of digoxin removed in the ultrafiltrate plasma was minimal (0.13 mg), less than 1% of the total amount of ingested drug. We conclude that the optimal timing of PE is within the first 3 hours after Fab administration. Although PE is efficacious for removing digoxin-Fab complexes, thus preventing rebound digoxin toxicity, it is not efficacious for improving total digoxin clearance because of the large apparent volume of distribution of digoxin (5 to 8 L/kg). (C) 2000 by the National Kidney Foundation, Inc.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)177-183
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Journal of Kidney Diseases
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2000


  • Digibind
  • Digoxin toxicity
  • Digoxin-specific antibody fragments (Fabs)
  • Plasma exchange (PE)
  • Plasmapheresis
  • Renal failure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nephrology


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