Magnesium is an important cofactor for enzymatic reactions and plays an important role in neurochemical transmission and muscular excitability.
As a nutritional adjunct in hyperalimentation, the precise mechanism of action for magnesium is uncertain. Early symptoms of hypomagnesemia (less than 1.5 mEq/L) may develop as early as three to four days or within weeks.
Predominant deficiency effects are neurological, e.g., muscle irritability, clonic twitching and tremors. Hypocalcemia and hypokalemia often follow low serum levels of magnesium. While there are large stores of magnesium present intracellularly and in the bones of adults, these stores often are not mobilized sufficiently to maintain plasma levels. Parenteral magnesium therapy repairs the plasma deficit and causes deficiency symptoms and signs to cease.
Magnesium prevents or controls convulsions by blocking neuromuscular transmission and decreasing the amount of acetylcholine liberated at the end-plate by the motor nerve impulse. Magnesium is said to have a depressant effect on the central nervous system (CNS), but it does not adversely affect the woman, fetus or neonate when used as directed in eclampsia or pre-eclampsia. Normal plasma magnesium levels range from 1.5 to 2.5 mEq/L.
As plasma magnesium rises above 4 mEq/L, the deep tendon reflexes are first decreased and then disappear as the plasma level approaches 10 mEq/L. At this level respiratory paralysis may occur. Heart block also may occur at this or lower plasma levels of magnesium. Serum magnesium concentrations in excess of 12 mEq/L may be fatal.
Magnesium acts peripherally to produce vasodilation. With low doses only flushing and sweating occur, but larger doses cause lowering of blood pressure. The central and peripheral effects of magnesium poisoning are antagonized to some extent by IV administration of calcium.
With IV administration the onset of anticonvulsant action is immediate and lasts about 30 minutes. Following IM administration the onset of action occurs in about one hour and persists for three to four hours. Effective anticonvulsant serum levels range from 2.5 to 7.5 mEq/L. Magnesium is excreted solely by the kidneys at a rate proportional to the plasma concentration and glomerular filtration.