To determine the effect of prolonged digitoxin administration on contractile function of nonfailing myocardium, right ventricular papillary muscle mechanics were examined after 6 or 24 wk of glycoside administration to control and pulmonary artery banded cats. Resting length-tension relations were not affected by digitoxin; however, isometrically developed force and the maximal rate of force development at the peak of the length-tension curve were increased in all treated groups. In untreated animals, banding resulted in a 28% incidence of deaths from heart failure. 6 wk after constriction, contractile function was depressed whereas normal function was observed 24 wk after banding. Digitoxin significantly reduced mortality from heart failure and enhanced the recovery of contractile function; contractile function in the 6 wk banded treated group approached that of untreated control and 24-wk banded groups. The long-term effects of digitoxin on contractile function were not importantly related to the temporal association between banding and institution of glycoside administration. Development of myocardial hypertrophy was comparable in treated and untreated banded groups.These results demonstrate that a significant positive inotropic effect persists in both normal and nonfailing hypertrophied myocardium during chronic digitoxin administration.
J F Williams, R D Potter