Use of magnesium in traumatic brain injury

Neurotherapeutics. 2010 Jan;7(1):91-9. doi: 10.1016/j.nurt.2009.10.014.


Depletion of magnesium is observed in animal brain and in human blood after brain injury. Treatment with magnesium attenuates the pathological and behavioral changes in rats with brain injury; however, the therapeutic effect of magnesium has not been consistently observed in humans with traumatic brain injury (TBI). Secondary brain insults are observed in patients with brain injury, which adversely affect clinical outcome. Systemic administration studies in rats have shown that magnesium enters the brain; however, inducing hypermagnesemia in humans did not concomitantly increase magnesium levels in the CSF. We hypothesize that the neuroprotective effects of magnesium in TBI patients could be observed by increasing its brain bioavailability with mannitol. Here, we review the role of magnesium in brain injury, preclinical studies in brain injury, clinical safety and efficacy studies in TBI patients, brain bioavailability studies in rat, and pharmacokinetic studies in humans with brain injury. Neurodegeneration after brain injury involves multiple biochemical pathways. Treatment with a single agent has often resulted in poor efficacy at a safe dose or toxicity at a therapeutic dose. A successful neuroprotective therapy needs to be aimed at homeostatic control of these pathways with multiple agents. Other pharmacological agents, such as dexanabinol and progesterone, and physiological interventions, with hypothermia and hyperoxia, have been studied for the treatment of brain injury. Treatment with magnesium and hypothermia has shown favorable outcome in rats with cerebral ischemia. We conclude that coadministration of magnesium and mannitol with pharmacological and physiological agents could be an effective neuroprotective regimen for the treatment of TBI.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / drug effects
  • Brain / physiopathology
  • Brain Injuries / drug therapy*
  • Brain Injuries / physiopathology
  • Brain Injuries / therapy
  • Humans
  • Magnesium / pharmacokinetics
  • Magnesium / therapeutic use*
  • Neuroprotective Agents / pharmacokinetics
  • Neuroprotective Agents / therapeutic use*


  • Neuroprotective Agents
  • Magnesium