Magnesium and therapeutics

Magnes Res. 1994 Dec;7(3-4):313-28.


Two different types of therapy with magnesium are used: physiological oral magnesium supplementation which is totally atoxic since it palliates magnesium deficiencies by simply normalizing the magnesium intake and pharmacological magnesium therapy which may induce toxicity since it creates iatrogenic magnesium overload. Primary and secondary magnesium deficiencies constitute the sole indication of physiological oral magnesium therapy. It is therefore necessary to be well acquainted with the clinical and paraclinical pattern of magnesium deficit and to discriminate between magnesium deficiency due to an insufficient magnesium intake which only requires oral physiological supplementation and magnesium depletion related to a dysregulation of the control mechanisms of magnesium status which requires more or less specific regulation of its causal dysregulation. Physiological oral magnesium load constitutes the best tool for diagnosis of magnesium deficiency and the first step of its treatment. Physiological oral magnesium supplementation (5 mg/kg/day) is easy and can be carried out in the diet or with magnesium salts, with practically only one contra-indication: overt renal failure. Specific and aspecific treatments of magnesium depletion are tricky using for example magnesium sparing diuretics, pharmacological doses of vitamin B6, physiological doses of vitamin D and of selenium. In order to use the pharmacological properties of induced therapeutic hypermagnesaemia, high oral doses of magnesium (> 10 mg/kg/day) are advisable for chronic indications and the parenteral route is suitable for acute indications. There are 3 types of indications: specific (for the treatment of some forms of magnesium deficit i.e. acute), pharmacological (i.e. without alterations of magnesium status) and mixed--pharmacological and aetiopathogenic--(for example complications of chronic alcoholism). Today pharmacological magnesium therapy mainly concerns the obstetrical, cardiological and anaesthesiological fields. The main indications are eclampsia, some dysrhythmias (torsades de pointe particularly) and myocardial ischaemias. But it is now difficult to situate the exact place of the pharmacological indications of magnesium. Magnesium infusions can only be envisaged in intensive care units with careful monitoring of pulse, arterial pressure, deep tendon reflexes, hourly diuresis, electrocardiogram and respiratory recordings. High oral magnesium doses besides their laxative action may bring latent complications which may reduce lifespan. There may remain some indications of the laxative and antacid properties of non soluble magnesium, particularly during intermittent haemodialysis. Lastly local use of the mucocutaneous and cytoprotective properties of magnesium is still valid, in cardioplegic solutions and for preservation of transplants particularly.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Contraindications
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Diet
  • Drug Interactions
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / drug therapy
  • Humans
  • Magnesium / administration & dosage
  • Magnesium / adverse effects
  • Magnesium / therapeutic use*
  • Magnesium Deficiency / diagnosis
  • Magnesium Deficiency / drug therapy
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / drug therapy
  • Renal Insufficiency


  • Magnesium