Should we supplement magnesium in critically ill patients?

New Horiz. 1994 May;2(2):186-92.


Magnesium (Mg) deficiency is a common yet underdiagnosed problem in the ICU. Since only 1% of total body Mg is in the extracellular fluid, serum Mg concentrations may not adequately reflect Mg status. Utilizing techniques to measure intracellular Mg concentrations, Mg depletion has been shown to be present in about one half of all ICU patients. These patients have significantly higher morbidity and mortality rates than Mg-replete patients. Accurate identification of patients with Mg depletion requires a knowledge of the risk factors associated with Mg deficiency. These factors include poorly controlled diabetes mellitus, alcohol ingestion, severe diarrhea and steatorrhea, and the use of a number of pharmacologic agents that induce renal Mg wasting. Manifestations of Mg deficiency include hypokalemia, hypocalcemia, neuromuscular hyperexcitability, respiratory muscle weakness, and intractable arrhythmias. Mg deficiency may also play a role in the genesis of myocardial ischemia. In this article, we review the assessment, causes, and manifestations of Mg deficiency and suggest guidelines for adequate treatment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Protocols
  • Critical Illness
  • Drug Monitoring
  • Humans
  • Infusions, Intravenous
  • Injections, Intravenous
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Magnesium / therapeutic use*
  • Magnesium Deficiency / blood
  • Magnesium Deficiency / complications
  • Magnesium Deficiency / diagnosis
  • Magnesium Deficiency / drug therapy*
  • Magnesium Deficiency / epidemiology
  • Nutrition Assessment
  • Parenteral Nutrition, Total / methods
  • Risk Factors
  • Survival Rate


  • Magnesium