Medical Applications of Digitalis Purpurea
The term digitalis or digitalis compounds are all used to refer to the entire
group of inotropic (or drugs that increase myocaridal contractility). All glycosides have
a shared structure of: an aglycone ring structure. The aglycone ring is where the pharmacological
activity is found.
The main use of Digitalis Purpurea today is as a effective way of treating congestive heart failure. The main way it
achieves this function is through increasing myocardial contractility. The following are the steps that
lead to congestive heart failure:
1. As myocardial contractility is reduced, the carotid and aortic barorecpetors detect the decreased
2. The sympathetic nervous system them increases the tone thereby causing the elevation
of blood pressure and cardiac outpuck to a normal state.
3. As heart contractility decreases and the sympathetic nervous system compensates over a period
of months or years, perfusion functions decrease in many organ systems as well as the
work increase by the heart to pump blood.
Therefore, congestive heart failure can be seen as a vicious cycle in which decreased contractility causes a sympatheitc reaction to
compensate for the difference leading to the body organs being unable to properly perfuse blood.
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