Digoxin pharmacokinetics were studied in 16 obese (mean +/- SD weight, 100.2 +/- 36.8 kg) and 13 control (64.6 +/- 10.5 kg) subjects. All subjects had normal renal function and no other coexisting disease. After administration of 0.75 mg digoxin by intravenous infusion, multiple plasma samples obtained over the 96 hours following infusion were analyzed for digoxin concentration by radioimmunoassay. Pharmacokinetic parameters were determined by weighted iterative nonlinear least squares regression analysis. Elimination half-life (t 1/2) was not different between obese and control groups (35.6 +/- 10.5 vs 41.2 +/- 16.7 hours). Absolute volume of distribution (Vd) also was not different (981 +/- 301 vs 937 +/- 397 liters), nor was total clearance of digoxin (328 +/- 82 vs 278 +/- 87 ml/min). Elimination t 1/2 was significantly negatively correlated with clearance among all subjects (r = -0.46; p less than 0.01). Using percent ideal body weight (IBW) as a measure of obesity, no correlation was found between percent IBW and Vd (r = 0.03). Thus digoxin is similarly distributed into IBW in obese and normal weight subjects, and there is no significant distribution of digoxin into excess body weight over IBV. In addition, there is no difference in total metabolic clearance or elimination half-life between obese and control subjects. Digoxin loading and maintenance dosage should be calculated on the basis of IBW, which reflects lean body mass, rather than TBW, which reflects adipose tissue weight in addition to lean body mass.