Magnesium is the fourth most abundant cation in the body and plays an important physiological role in many of its functions. Magnesium balance is maintained by renal regulation of magnesium reabsorption. The exact mechanism of the renal regulation is not fully understood. Magnesium deficiency is a common problem in hospital patients, with a prevalence of about 10%. There are no readily available and easy methods to assess magnesium status. Serum magnesium and the magnesium tolerance test are the most widely used. Measurement of ionised magnesium may become more widely available with the availability of ion selective electrodes. Magnesium deficiency and hypomagnesaemia can result from a variety of causes including gastrointestinal and renal losses. Magnesium deficiency can cause a wide variety of features including hypocalcaemia, hypokalaemia and cardiac and neurological manifestations. Chronic low magnesium state has been associated with a number of chronic diseases including diabetes, hypertension, coronary heart disease, and osteoporosis. The use of magnesium as a therapeutic agent in asthma, myocardial infarction, and pre-eclampsia is also discussed. Hypermagnesaemia is less frequent than hypomagnesaemia and results from failure of excretion or increased intake. Hypermagnesaemia can lead to hypotension and other cardiovascular effects as well as neuromuscular manifestations. Causes and management of hypermagnesaemia are discussed.