Intravenous magnesium for acute myocardial infarction

In some countries, intravenous (IV) magnesium is administered to heart attack patients in order to limit damage to the heart muscle, prevent serious arrhythmias and reduce the risk of death. Several small trials appeared to support the practice. But the authors of this review found that other trials went unpublished once they produced unfavorable results. A controversy erupted in 1995, when a large well-designed trial with 58,050 participants did not demonstrate any beneficial effect to IV magnesium, contradicting earlier meta-analyses of the smaller trials. This review includes 26 clinical trials that had randomly assigned heart attack patients to receive either IV magnesium or an inactive substance (placebo). Their results were mixed: IV magnesium reduced the incidence of serious arrhythmias, but this treatment also increased the incidence of profound hypotension, bradycardia and flushing. However, any apparent beneficial effects of magnesium may simply reflect various biases in these trials. Additionally, there was a lack of uniformity in these trials in terms of dosage and the timing of the IV magnesium regimen, which in some trials also included anti-clotting drugs. The evidence produced by this review does not support continued use of IV magnesium. Other effective treatments (aspirin, beta-blockers) should be used to treat heart attack.

Authors' conclusions: 

Owing to the likelihood of publication bias and marked heterogeneity of treatment effects, it is essential that the findings are interpreted cautiously. From the evidence reviewed here, we consider that: (1) it is unlikely that magnesium is beneficial in reducing mortality both in patients treated early and in patients treated late, and in patients already receiving thrombolytic therapy; (2) it is unlikely that magnesium will reduce mortality when used at high dose (>=75 mmol); (3) magnesium treatment may reduce the incidence of ventricular fibrillation, ventricular tachycardia, severe arrhythmia needing treatment or Lown 2-5, but it may increase the incidence of profound hypotension, bradycardia and flushing; and (4) the areas of uncertainty regarding the effect of magnesium on mortality remain the effect of low dose treatment (< 75 mmol) and in patients not treated with thrombolysis.

Read the full abstract...

Mortality and morbidity from acute myocardial infarction (AMI) remain high. Intravenous magnesium started early after the onset of AMI is thought to be a promising adjuvant treatment. Conflicting results from earlier trials and meta-analyses warrant a systematic review of available evidence.


To examine the effect of intravenous magnesium versus placebo on early mortality and morbidity.

Search strategy: 

We searched CENTRAL (The Cochrane Library Issue 3, 2006), MEDLINE (January 1966 to June 2006) and EMBASE (January 1980 to June 2006), and the Chinese Biomedical Disk (CBM disk) (January 1978 to June 2006). Some core Chinese medical journals relevant to the cardiovascular field were hand searched from their starting date to the first-half year of 2006.

Selection criteria: 

All randomized controlled trials that compared intravenous magnesium with placebo in the presence or absence of fibrinolytic therapy in addition to routine treatment were eligible if they reported mortality and morbidity within 35 days of AMI onset.

Data collection and analysis: 

Two reviewers independently assessed the trial quality and extracted data using a standard form. Odds ratio (OR) were used to pool the effect if appropriate. Where heterogeneity of effects was found, clinical and methodological sources of this were explored.

Main results: 

For early mortality where there was evidence of heterogeneity, a fixed-effect meta-analysis showed no difference between magensium and placebo groups (OR 0.99, 95%CI 0.94 to 1.04), while a random-effects meta-analysis showed a significant reduction comparing magnesium with placebo (OR 0.66, 95% CI 0.53 to 0.82). Stratification by timing of treatment (< 6 hrs, 6+ hrs) reduced heterogeneity, and in both fixed-effect and random-effects models no significant effect of magnesium was found. In stratified analyses, early mortality was reduced for patients not treated with thrombolysis (OR=0.73, 95% CI 0.56 to 0.94 by random-effects model) and for those treated with less than 75 mmol of magnesium (OR=0.59, 95% CI 0.49 to 0.70) in the magnesium compared with placebo groups.

Meta-analysis for the secondary outcomes where there was no evidence of heterogeneity showed reductions in the odds of ventricular fibrillation (OR=0.88, 95% CI 0.81 to 0.96), but increases in the odds of profound hypotension (OR=1.13, 95% CI 1.09 to 1.19) and bradycardia (OR=1.49, 95% CI 1.26 to 1.77) comparing magnesium with placebo. No difference was observed for heart block (OR=1.05, 95% CI 0.97-1.14). For those outcomes where there was evidence of heterogeneity, meta-analysis with both fixed-effect and random-effects models showed that magnesium could decrease ventricular tachycardia (OR=0.45, 95% CI 0.31 to 0.66 by fixed-effect model; OR=0.40, 95% CI 0.19 to 0.84 by random-effects model) and severe arrhythmia needing treatment or Lown 2-5 (OR=0.72, 95% CI 0.60 to 0.85 by fixed-effect model; OR=0.51, 95% CI 0.33 to 0.79 by random-effects model) compared with placebo. There was no difference on the effect of cardiogenic shock between the two groups.