Magnesium deficiency is associated with a high frequency of cardiac arrhythmia, hypertension and sudden ischemic death. We investigated the if vivo effects of intravenous magnesium administration in a rat model of chemically induced (FeCl3) carotid thrombosis. The infusion of magnesium sulfate (MgSO4) before the topical application of FeCl5 prevented thrombus formation at concentrations of 0.3 M and 0.6 M, and delayed it even at 0.15 M. Similar results were obtained with MgCl2. The infusion of MgSO4 0.6 M seven minutes after FeCl3 application delayed but did not prevent thrombus formation. MgSO4 slightly reduced platelet aggregation ex vivo without affecting plasma clotting tests, but in vivo blood clotting time was markedly prolonged (tail transection method), thus indicating profoundly impaired coagulation. These data provide a rationale for the use of magnesium as an antithrombotic agent. but its pharmacological effect critically depends on the timing of administration.