Potentials of magnesium treatment in subarachnoid haemorrhage

W M van den Bergh, R M Dijkhuizen, G J E Rinkel
Magnesium Research: Official Organ of the International Society for the Development of Research on Magnesium 2004, 17 (4): 301-13
Subarachnoid hemorrhage from a ruptured aneurysm is a subset of stroke. The young age (median 55 years) and poor outcome (50% of patients die; 30% of survivors remain dependent) explain why in the population the loss of productive life years from aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH) is as large as that from brain infarcts, the most common type of stroke. Ischemia plays an important role in the pathophysiological process after SAH. A period of global cerebral ischemia firstly occurs in the acute phase, immediately after rupture of the aneurysm, due to acute vasoconstriction and elevated intracranial pressure, which leads to a drop in perfusion pressure. This is quite distinct from the secondly, delayed cerebral ischemia (DCI), which is focal or multi-focal. DCI usually occurs between 4 and 10 days after the initial bleeding, has a gradual onset and is multi-focal, and is an important cause of death and dependency after SAH. The interval between the bleeding and the onset of ischemia provides an opportunity for preventive treatment. Magnesium is readily available, inexpensive and has a well-established clinical profile in obstetrical and cardiovascular practice. It is beneficial in the treatment of eclampsia, a disease with a pathophysiology comparable to DCI after subarachnoid hemorrhage. Neuroprotective mechanisms of magnesium include inhibition of the release of excitatory amino-acids and blockade of the NMDA-glutamate receptor. Magnesium is also a non-competitive antagonist of voltage dependent calcium channels, has cerebrovascular dilatory activity and is an important co-factor of cellular ATPases, including the Na/K-ATPase. Magnesium can reverse delayed cerebral vasospasm and reduces the extent of acute ischemic cerebral lesions after experimental subarachnoid hemorrhage in rats. In this article we discuss the neuroprotective potency of magnesium in SAH by describing the pathophysiology of ischaemia after SAH and the many ways magnesium may interfere with this.

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