Objective: To examine the efficacy of digoxin for decreasing operative time, difficulty, and pain of late second-trimester surgical abortions.
Methods: We performed a randomized, double-masked, placebo-controlled trial of intra-amniotic digoxin for second-trimester dilation and evacuation (D&E) involving 126 consecutive women at an inner-city public hospital. Eligible women had gestational ages of 20-23.1 weeks, spoke English or Spanish, and were at least 16 years old. Digoxin (1 mg) or saline was injected intra-amniotically 24 hours before the procedure, at cervical laminaria insertion. The primary outcome was procedure duration. Sample size was based on 80% power to detect a difference of 3.5 minutes between groups.
Results: The two groups were similar in demographic factors, obstetric histories, and gestational duration. The average gestational length was 22.5 weeks. There was no difference in procedure duration (mean +/- standard deviation) between groups (placebo 14.7 +/- 7.0, digoxin 15.4 +/- 8.0). There were no differences in blood loss estimated by surgeons, pain scores, procedure difficulty scores, or complications between groups. Vomiting was significantly more common in those who received digoxin (placebo 3.1%, digoxin 16.1%). Most subjects (91%) reported that they preferred their fetuses were dead before the abortions.
Conclusion: Although digoxin did not increase efficacy of late second-trimester abortion, patient preference might justify its use.