Postoperative respiratory depression caused by iatrogenic hypermagnesaemia

Anaesth Rep. 2022 Mar 24;10(1):e12154. doi: 10.1002/anr3.12154. eCollection 2022 Jan-Jun.


Hypermagnesaemia is an uncommon electrolyte disorder which can be fatal if not recognised and treated promptly. The signs and symptoms of hypermagnesaemia are non-specific, making it an under-diagnosed cause of cardiovascular dysfunction, hypocalcaemia, and neurological and respiratory depression. Since magnesium homeostasis is handled almost exclusively by the kidneys, symptomatic hypermagnesaemia seldom occurs in the context of normal renal function; when it does, it is usually iatrogenic. Here, we report a case of iatrogenic hypermagnesaemia which presented as respiratory depression, preventing weaning from mechanical ventilation following cardiac surgery in a patient in the early stages of chronic kidney disease. On investigation he was found to have isolated severe hypermagnesaemia, following an intravenous bolus of magnesium sulphate administered intra-operatively to treat tachyarrhythmia. Before administering intravenous magnesium therapeutically, it is important for clinicians to assess renal function and baseline serum magnesium along with other possible risk factors for hypermagnesaemia, and to actively look for signs and symptoms of magnesium toxicity when the patient is receiving therapeutic magnesium.

Keywords: NM transmission: ions; factors causing prolonged neuromuscular blockade; hypermagnesaemia: treatment; magnesium: complications; prolonged NMB risk factors.

Publication types

  • Case Reports