The use of magnesium in bronchial asthma: a new approach to an old problem

Arch Immunol Ther Exp (Warsz). Jan-Feb 2007;55(1):35-9. doi: 10.1007/s00005-007-0008-8.


Magnesium deficiency is a common electrolyte disorder in patients with acute severe asthma, but intracellular magnesium content better reflects its homeostasis than does its serum concentration. Magnesium takes part in many metabolic processes in the organism, including energy metabolism, protein and nucleic acid synthesis, cell cycle, the binding of substances to the plasma membrane, and maintenance of cytoskeletal and mitochondrial integrity. It also modulates ion transport and influences intracellular calcium concentration. Maintenance of the cells' transmembrane gradient depends on the presence of magnesium, and hypomagnesemia may result in an increase in neuromuscular cell excitability. Magnesium is a cation modulating the smooth muscle contractility of different tissues: hypomagnesemia causes their contraction and hypermagnesemia their relaxation. Suggestions of a positive influence of magnesium in the treatment of asthma exacerbation have been known for a long time, but research results differ. A single dose of intravenous magnesium sulfate given to patients with acute asthma exacerbation has been shown to be safe, but its efficiency is still under discussion. According to the Global Initiative for Asthma GINA-2005, magnesium sulfate administration is not recommended for routine treatment, but it is permitted in patients with severe asthma exacerbation not responding to treatment (evidence category A). Recommendations of the British Thoracic Society allow one dose of magnesium sulfate to patients with acute severe asthma exacerbation and inadequate initial response to broncho-dilating inhalation treatment (evidence category A). Future investigations should help to establish the indications for magnesium use in the treatment of acute asthma exacerbations as well as the magnesium dose and the scheme of its administration.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Anti-Asthmatic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Asthma / drug therapy*
  • Asthma / metabolism*
  • Magnesium / physiology
  • Magnesium / therapeutic use*
  • Magnesium Sulfate / therapeutic use*


  • Anti-Asthmatic Agents
  • Magnesium Sulfate
  • Magnesium