Safety of digoxin for fetal demise before second-trimester abortion by dilation and evacuation

Dean G

Colarossi L

Lunde B

Jacobs AR

Porsch LM

Paul ME

Feb 2012


Digoxin is used to induce fetal demise before dilation and evacuation (D&E) abortion. Published data on the safety of digoxin in abortion care are limited.


We conducted a retrospective cohort study with historical controls at a large family planning center. We reviewed the records of patients at 18 to 24 weeks' gestation who received digoxin before D&E from May 15, 2007 (date the center initiated digoxin use), through March 31, 2008. We also reviewed the records of patients who presented for D&E without digoxin from February 22, 2006, through May 12, 2007. We compared the rates of immediate complications.


We included 566 digoxin patients and 513 controls. Eleven spontaneous abortions occurred in the digoxin cohort; none occurred among controls (p<.001). We found 19 cases of infection in the digoxin cohort and three among controls (odds ratio 5.91; 95% confidence interval 1.74-20.07). Eleven digoxin patients were admitted to a hospital after the preoperative visit; no controls were admitted (p<.001).


Patients who received digoxin before D&E were more likely to experience spontaneous abortion, infection and hospital admission than controls who underwent D&E without digoxin.