Magnesium sulfate therapy in preeclampsia and eclampsia

Obstet Gynecol. 1998 Nov;92(5):883-9. doi: 10.1016/s0029-7844(98)00277-4.


Objective: To review the available evidence regarding efficacy, benefits, and risks of magnesium sulfate seizure prophylaxis in women with preeclampsia or eclampsia.

Data sources: The English-language literature in MEDLINE was searched from 1966 through February 1998 using the terms "magnesium sulfate," "seizure," "preeclampsia," "eclampsia," and "hypertension in pregnancy." Reviews of bibliographies of retrieved articles and consultation with experts in the field provided additional references.

Methods of study selection: All relevant English-language clinical research articles retrieved were reviewed. Randomized controlled trials, retrospective reviews, and observational studies specifically addressing efficacy, benefits, or side effects of magnesium sulfate therapy in preeclampsia or eclampsia were chosen.

Tabulation, integration, and results: Nineteen randomized controlled trials, five retrospective studies, and eight observational reports were reviewed. The criteria used for inclusion were as follows: randomized controlled trials evaluating use of magnesium sulfate in eclampsia, preeclampsia, and hypertensive disorders of pregnancy; nonrandomized studies of historical interest; "classic" observational studies; and recent retrospective studies evaluating efficacy of magnesium sulfate therapy, using relative risk and 95% confidence intervals where applicable. Magnesium sulfate therapy has been associated with increased length of labor, increased cesarean delivery rate, increased postpartum bleeding, increased respiratory depression, decreased neuromuscular transmission, and maternal death from overdose. A summary of randomized, controlled trials in women with eclampsia reveals recurrent seizures in 216 (23.1%) of 935 women treated with phenytoin or diazepam, compared with recurrent seizures in only 88 (9.4%) of 932 magnesium-treated women. Randomized controlled trials in women with severe preeclampsia collectively revealed seizures in 22 (2.8%) of 793 women treated with antihypertensive agents, compared with seizures in only seven of 815 (0.9%) magnesium-treated women.

Conclusion: The evidence to date confirms the efficacy of magnesium sulfate therapy for women with eclampsia and severe preeclampsia. However, there is a need for a randomized controlled trial to determine efficacy of magnesium sulfate therapy for women with mild preeclampsia and gestational hypertension.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anticonvulsants / adverse effects
  • Anticonvulsants / pharmacology
  • Anticonvulsants / therapeutic use*
  • Eclampsia / complications*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnesium Sulfate / adverse effects
  • Magnesium Sulfate / pharmacology
  • Magnesium Sulfate / therapeutic use*
  • Pre-Eclampsia / complications*
  • Pregnancy
  • Seizures / drug therapy*
  • Seizures / etiology


  • Anticonvulsants
  • Magnesium Sulfate