Magnesium sulfate, simplified

Magnesium sulfate, simplified
Mothers and their babies stand outside the maternity block at the Kissidougou hospital in the town of Kissidougou, Guinea, in May 2010. Proper use of magnesium sulfate will help save mothers’ lives. ©UNICEF/Asselin


Magnesium sulfate is the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended medicine for the prevention and treatment of pre-eclampsia and eclampsia and it just got easier to use: the WHO Essential Medicines List now includes a simpler, clearer language describing the presentation of magnesium sulfate required for treatment.

In many international and national clinical guidelines, the concentration of magnesium sulfate solutions is described as a percentage, which can create confusion about how much magnesium sulfate this represents in a specific volume of water. This confusion can lead to dosing errors, especially in an emergency situation.

A survey conducted by members of the Maternal Health Technical Resource Team of the UN Commission on Life-Saving Commodities showed that complicated dosage preparations, variations of dosage, quantities and different dosages for loading and maintenance doses are some of the main barriers to the availability and correct use of magnesium sulfate.

The revised language (see table below) in the WHO Essential Medicines List provides greater clarity about the content of magnesium sulfate ampoules and can assist governments and procurers to make the correct decisions when ordering this essential medicine. This revision of the Essential Medicines List follows from a proposal from the Maternal Health Technical Resource Team.


magnesium sulfate* Injection: 0.5g/ mL in 2? mL ampoule (equivalent to 1 g in 2 mL; 50% weight/volume); 0.5g/ mL in
10? mL ampoule (equivalent to 5 g in 10 mL; 50% weight/volume).* For use in eclampsia and severe pre?eclampsia and not for other convulsant disorders.

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