Objective We sought to evaluate magnesium as a neuroprotectant in patients undergoing cardiac surgery with cardiopulmonary bypass.
Methods From February 2002 to September 2003, 350 patients undergoing elective coronary artery bypass grafting, valve surgery, or both were enrolled in a randomized, blinded, placebo-controlled trial to receive either magnesium sulfate to increase plasma levels 1½ to 2 times normal during cardiopulmonary bypass (n = 174) or no intervention (n = 176). Neurologic function, neuropsychologic function, and depression were assessed preoperatively, at 24 and 96 hours after extubation (neurologic) and at 3 months (neuropsychologic, depression). Neurologic scores were analyzed using ordinal longitudinal methods, and neuropsychologic and depression inventory data were summarized by principal component analysis, followed by linear regression analysis using component scores as response variables.
Results Seven (2%) patients had a postoperative stroke, 2 (1%) in the magnesium and 5 (3%) in the placebo group (P = .4). Neurologic score was worse postoperatively in both groups (P < .0001); however, magnesium group patients performed better than placebo group patients (P = .0001), who had prolonged declines in short-term memory and reemergence of primitive reflexes. Three-month neuropsychologic performance and depression inventory score were generally better than preoperatively, with few differences between groups (P > .6); however, older age (P = .0006), previous stroke (P = .003), and lower education level (P = .0007) were associated with worse performance.
Conclusions Magnesium administration is safe and improves short-term postoperative neurologic function after cardiac surgery, particularly in preserving short-term memory and cortical control over brainstem functions. However, by 3 months, other factors and not administration of magnesium influence neuropsychologic and depression inventory performance.