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Magnesium homeostasis and clinical disorders of magnesium deficiency.

OBJECTIVE: To survey the causes of clinical hypomagnesemia and Mg deficiency. The relationship of hypomagnesemia to digitalis toxicity, congestive heart failure, arrhythmias, and acute myocardial infarction is discussed, as is the clinical interrelationship of Mg and K concentrations, the principal intracellular cations.

DATA SOURCES: A MEDLINE search and retrieval was used to identify relevant references.

STUDY SELECTION: Clinical reports, as well as studies, were selected for this review.

DATA EXTRACTION: There were very few placebo-controlled clinical studies. Clinical observations were related primarily to compilation of series in which Mg was administered and clinical results reported. In addition, conclusions derived from review articles on the subject of clinical Mg depletion were used.

DATA SYNTHESIS: Clinical diagnosis of Mg deficiency is ascertained most expeditiously by estimating serum Mg concentrations. Although available on order by physicians, the lack of routine serum Mg analysis as part of the "electrolyte panel" impedes the diagnosis of clinical Mg deficiency. Renal loss of Mg resulting from the widespread use of loop diuretics is responsible for significant numbers of patients with Mg deficiency and hypomagnesemia. Life-threatening cardiac arrhythmias and seizures represent the most serious manifestations of clinical hypomagnesemia and Mg depletion. In the most critically ill patients, treatment with intravenous Mg is recommended. Oral repletion of Mg is reserved for the less critically ill hospitalized patients and ambulatory patients. Close attention must be paid to optimizing K replenishment in hypokalemic patients by concurrent treatment of any accompanying hypomagnesemia to avoid the problem of refractory K repletion.

CONCLUSIONS: Hypomagnesemia is one of the most frequent serum electrolyte abnormalities in current clinical practice. Routine inclusion of serum Mg analysis in the electrolyte panel will enhance the clinical recognition and treatment of hypomagnesemic Mg-depleted patients. Failure to respond to treatment of recurrent ventricular tachycardia/fibrillation to usual antiarrhythmic therapy in patients with acute myocardial infarction, idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy, and congestive heart failure should alert the clinician to consider administering intravenous Mg. Repair of coexisting hypomagnesemia in hypokalemic patients is essential to avoid the problem of refractory K repletion caused by coexisting Mg depletion. More controlled clinical studies of Mg deficiency are necessary to ascertain the cost-effectiveness of Mg replacement therapy.

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