Objective: To determine whether urinary magnesium (Mg) values in patients with gut failure would be more helpful than serum Mg measurements in assessment of Mg deficiency.
Design: We compared serum and urinary Mg values in 16 patients with gut failure and 16 age- and sex-matched control subjects.
Material and methods: Sixteen patients with gut failure (nine women and seven men; mean age, 59 years) had serum and 24-hour urinary mg measured before Mg replacement therapy. Short bowel syndrome was present in 75%, and diffuse small bowel disease was present in 25%.
Results: The median value for serum Mg was 1.7 mg/dL for patients and 2.0 mg/dL for healthy control subjects (P < 0.001). The median values for urinary Mg were 19 mg and 127 mg per 24-hour specimen in patient and control groups, respectively (P < 0.001). A strong correlation was noted between serum Mg and urinary Mg levels. All patients had low urinary Mg values even though 9 of 16 (56%) had normal serum Mg values. Two patients with normal serum Mg concentrations had urinary Mg values of 20 mg/24 h (25% of normal). Serum, but not urinary, Mg correlated significantly with the length of remaining small bowel (P = 0.03).
Conclusions: Urinary Mg declines before serum Mg and is an earlier and more reliable indicator of evolving Mg deficiency. On the basis of these observations and those showing beneficial effects of parenterally administered Mg supplements on urinary citrate excretion (and, presumably, formation of calcium oxalate stones), replacement of Mg in patients with gut failure should be targeted at normalizing urinary Mg.