Magnesium for subarachnoid haemorrhage

Symptomatic cerebral vasospasm occurs in nearly one-third of patients with aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage and is a major cause of disability and mortality in this population.

Magnesium (Mg) acts as a cerebral vasodilator by blocking the voltage-dependent calcium channels.. Experimental studies suggest that Mg also inhibits glutamate release by blocking N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors, decreases intracellular calcium influx, and increases red blood cell deformability; all these changes may reduce the occurrence of cerebral vasospasm and minimise brain ischemic injury occurring after SAH.

One hundred and ten patients within 96 hours of admission for aneurysmal subarachnoid haemorrhage (SAH) were randomised to receive iv magnesium or placebo. Nimodipine was not routinely given. Twelve patients (22%) in the magnesium group and 27 patients (51%) in the control group had delayed ischemic infarction – the primary endpoint (p< .0020; odds ratio [OR], 0.28; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.12– 0.64). Mortality was lower and neurological outcome better in the magnesium group but these results were not statistically significant.

Larger trials of magnesium in SAH are ongoing.

Prophylactic intravenous magnesium sulfate for treatment of aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage: A randomized, placebo-controlled, clinical study
Crit Care Med. 2010 May;38(5):1284-90

Update September 2012:

A multicentre RCT showed intravenous magnesium sulphate does not improve clinical outcome after aneurysmal subarachnoid haemorrhage, therefore routine administration of magnesium cannot be recommended.
Magnesium for aneurysmal subarachnoid haemorrhage (MASH-2): a randomised placebo-controlled trial
Lancet 2012 July 7; 380(9836): 44–49 Free full text


Background Magnesium sulphate is a neuroprotective agent that might improve outcome after aneurysmal subarachnoid haemorrhage by reducing the occurrence or improving the outcome of delayed cerebral ischaemia. We did a trial to test whether magnesium therapy improves outcome after aneurysmal subarachnoid haemorrhage.

Methods We did this phase 3 randomised, placebo-controlled trial in eight centres in Europe and South America. We randomly assigned (with computer-generated random numbers, with permuted blocks of four, stratified by centre) patients aged 18 years or older with an aneurysmal pattern of subarachnoid haemorrhage on brain imaging who were admitted to hospital within 4 days of haemorrhage, to receive intravenous magnesium sulphate, 64 mmol/day, or placebo. We excluded patients with renal failure or bodyweight lower than 50 kg. Patients, treating physicians, and investigators assessing outcomes and analysing data were masked to the allocation. The primary outcome was poor outcome—defined as a score of 4–5 on the modified Rankin Scale—3 months after subarachnoid haemorrhage, or death. We analysed results by intention to treat. We also updated a previous meta-analysis of trials of magnesium treatment for aneurysmal subarachnoid haemorrhage. This study is registered with controlled-trials.com (ISRCTN 68742385) and the EU Clinical Trials Register (EudraCT 2006-003523-36).

Findings 1204 patients were enrolled, one of whom had his treatment allocation lost. 606 patients were assigned to the magnesium group (two lost to follow-up), 597 to the placebo (one lost to follow-up). 158 patients (26·2%) had poor outcome in the magnesium group compared with 151 (25·3%) in the placebo group (risk ratio [RR] 1·03, 95% CI 0·85–1·25). Our updated meta-analysis of seven randomised trials involving 2047 patients shows that magnesium is not superior to placebo for reduction of poor outcome after aneurysmal subarachnoid haemorrhage (RR 0·96, 95% CI 0·86–1·08).

Interpretation Intravenous magnesium sulphate does not improve clinical outcome after aneurysmal subarachnoid haemorrhage, therefore routine administration of magnesium cannot be recommended.