The transport of digoxin across the perfused human placental lobule

L. O. Derewlany, J. S. Leeder, R. Kumar, I. C. Radde, B. Knie, G. Koren

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The cardiac glycoside, digoxin, is clinically used to treat fetal tachyarrhythmias and congestive heart failure. The time course of digoxin transfer across the human placenta was studied by dually perfusing an isolated lobule of the human placenta in vitro. Viability of the placental preparation was validated by measuring the rates of glucose and oxygen consumption, lactate production and synthesis of the protein hormone, chorionic gonadotropin. Following administration of 5 ng/ml digoxin to the maternal circulation, digoxin appeared in the fetal circulation within 5 min. The disappearance of digoxin from the maternal circulation was biexponential and best fit a two-compartment pharmacokinetic model. Mean calculated volume of the central compartment (257 ± 6.3 ml) was consistent with the actual volume of the in vitro maternal circulation (246 ± 7.4 ml). The half-life of the distribution phase was 9.7 ± 3.3 min, and half-life of the terminal elimination phase was 362 ± 83 min. After 30 min of perfusion, the amount of digoxin leaving the maternal circulation and appearing in the fetal circulation was constant at a fetomaternal mass ratio of 0.36 ± 0.04. This ratio was maintained through to the end of the 3-hr experiment. All of the digoxin leaving the maternal circulation could be accounted for either in the fetal circulation or bound to placental tissue. The time to achieve equal concentrations on both sides of the placenta was estimated to be 268 ± 34 min. These data are consistent with in vivo data obtained in humans, and support the relevance of using the in vitro placental perfusion model to obtain information regarding placental drug transfer in humans.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1107-1111
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1991
Externally publishedYes


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