Intravenous magnesium sulfate for the treatment of acute asthma in the emergency department

JAMA. 1989 Sep 1;262(9):1210-3.


Conventional nebulized beta-agonist therapy has met with disappointing results in an increasing number of moderate to severe asthmatics who may be characterized as "poor responders." Thirty-eight patients suffering from acute exacerbations of moderate to severe asthma were treated in an emergency department with an intravenous infusion of saline placebo or 1.2 g of magnesium sulfate after conventional beta-agonist therapy failed to produce significant improvement in peak expiratory flow rate. Nineteen patients were randomized into each of two groups in a placebo-controlled, double-blind clinical trial. The treatment group demonstrated an increase in peak expiratory flow rate from 225 to 297 L/min as compared with 208 to 216 L/min seen in the placebo group. In addition, the number admitted vs discharged was significantly better for the treatment group (7 vs 12) than the placebo group (15 vs 4). Intravenous magnesium sulfate may represent a beneficial adjunct therapy in patients with moderate to severe asthma who show little improvement with beta-agonists.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Asthma / drug therapy*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Emergency Service, Hospital*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infusions, Intravenous
  • Magnesium Sulfate / administration & dosage
  • Magnesium Sulfate / therapeutic use*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Admission
  • Patient Discharge
  • Peak Expiratory Flow Rate
  • Random Allocation


  • Magnesium Sulfate