Interruption of the enterohepatic circulation of digitoxin by cholestyramine. II. Effect on metabolic disposition of tritium-labeled digitoxin and cardiac systolic intervals in man

J Clin Invest. 1971 Dec;50(12):2638-44. doi: 10.1172/JCI106764.


Previous studies of digitalis glycoside metabolism and excretion have indicated that these compounds undergo a significant enterohepatic cycle in some species. It has been suggested that the existence of such a cycle in man contributes to the prolonged action of certain cardiac glycosides. Previous studies have demonstrated that cholestyramine binds digitoxin and digoxin in vitro and accelerates the metabolic disposition of digitoxin in rats and guinea pigs, presumably by interrupting the enterohepatic circulation. In order to assess the role of the enterohepatic circulation in the metabolism of digitalis glycosides in humans, maintenance doses of cholestyramine were administered to 7 of 15 normal human subjects beginning 8 hr after digitalization with 1.2 mg of digitoxin-(3)H. All subjects had frequent measurements of serum radioactivity, left ventricular ejection time (LVET), and electromechanical systole (QS(2)), the latter recorded as the interval from onset of Q wave to first major component of second heart sound. Measurement of the LVET and QS(2) intervals affords a sensitive index of the cardiac response to digitalis. In addition, chloroform extraction of serum was performed to separate unchanged digitoxin and active metabolites from cardioinactive metabolites of digitoxin. Cholestyramine treatment resulted in reduction in half-life to total serum radioactivity from 11.5 to 6.6 days, and in chloroform-extractable radioactivity from 6.0 to 4.5 days, as compared to controls. In addition, cholestyramine treatment was accompanied by more rapid return to base line values of digitoxin-induced changes in the LVET and QS(2) intervals. A significant positive correlation was found between QS(2) values and chloroform-extractable radioactivity, the latter reflecting unchanged digitoxin-H(3) (r=0.64; P=<0.01). The results indicate that administration of cholestyramine to digitalized human subjects accelerates the metabolic disposition of digitoxin and abbreviates the physiologic response to the glycoside. This effect is presumably mediated by interruption of the enterohepatic circulation of digitoxin by cholestyramine.

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Adult
  • Carotid Arteries
  • Cholestyramine Resin / administration & dosage
  • Cholestyramine Resin / metabolism
  • Cholestyramine Resin / pharmacology*
  • Chromatography, Thin Layer
  • Digitoxin / administration & dosage
  • Digitoxin / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Digitoxin / blood
  • Digitoxin / metabolism*
  • Digitoxin / pharmacology
  • Electrocardiography
  • Heart / drug effects*
  • Humans
  • Liver / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Methods
  • Phonocardiography
  • Pulse
  • Time Factors
  • Tritium


  • Tritium
  • Cholestyramine Resin
  • Digitoxin