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Ann Emerg Med. 2005 Apr;45(4):347-53.

A randomized controlled trial of magnesium sulfate, in addition to usual care, for rate control in atrial fibrillation.

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Department of Emergency Medicine, Royal Adelaide Hospital, North Terrace, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia.



We examine the safety and efficacy of magnesium sulfate infusion, in addition to usual care, for acute rate reduction in patients with atrial fibrillation and a rapid ventricular response rate.


This was a prospective, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of intravenous magnesium sulfate in adult emergency department patients with rapid atrial fibrillation. Study solutions were given in addition to any therapy the treating physician would normally consider appropriate, including the use of standard rate-reduction agents. Patients received either 20 mEq (2.5 g, 10 mmol) magnesium sulfate over a 20-minute period, followed by 20 mEq (2.5 g, 10 mmol) over a 2-hour period intravenously, or placebo.


One hundred ninety-nine patients were randomized, 102 to receive magnesium sulfate and 97 to receive placebo. The antiarrhythmic drug most commonly used by treating physicians was digoxin. Magnesium sulfate was more likely than placebo to achieve a pulse rate of less than 100 beats/min (63 [65%] of 97 versus 32 [34%] of 93, relative risk [RR] 1.89; 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.38 to 2.59; P <.0001) and more likely to convert to sinus rhythm (25 [27%] of 94 patients versus 11 [12%] of 91 patients; RR 2.20; 95% CI 1.15 to 4.21; P =.01). Comparative mean pulse rate reductions in the magnesium sulfate group did not reach predetermined clinical significance levels (> or =15 beats/min reduction) at any of the measured time points. Magnesium sulfate was more likely to be associated with an adverse event (14 [15%] of 95 patients versus 5 [5%] of 92 patients; RR 2.71; 95% CI 1.02 to 7.23; P =.04).


Magnesium sulfate, when used to supplement other standard rate-reduction therapies, enhances rate reduction and conversion to sinus rhythm in patients with rapid atrial fibrillation.

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