Background: Intracellular magnesium ([Mg](i) plays an important role in the regulation of myocardial metabolism, contractility, and the maintenance of transsarcolemmal and intracellular ionic gradients. An understanding of the role of magnesium in the clinical setting, however, is hampered by the lack of an assay of intracellular tissue magnesium levels. Methods and Results: We used energy-dispersive x-ray analysis to measure [Mg](i) in sublingual epithelial cells and to correlate the level with those in atrial biopsy specimens from the same patients during cardiopulmonary bypass. Levels were also measured in acute myocardial infarction (AMI) patients before and after intravenous magnesium sulfate administration and compared with those from intensive care unit (ICU) patients and healthy individuals. A strong correlation between sublingual epithelial cell (mean, 32.1 ± 0.3 mEq/L) and atrial tissue (mean, 32.1 ± 0.3 mEq/L) [Mg](i) was present in 18 cardiac surgery patients (r = .68, P<.002). Epithelial and atrial [Mg](i) levels were lower than in healthy individuals (33.7 ± 0.5 mEq/L, P<.01) studied at that time and correlated poorly with serum magnesium. Mean [Mg](i) in 22 AMI patients was 30.7 ± 0.4 mEq/L, which was significantly lower than in 21 ICU patients and 15 healthy individuals (35.0 ± 0.5 mEq/L and 34.5 ± 0.7 mEq/L, respectively, P<.001). Intravenous magnesium sulfate was administered to most of the AMI patients (mean dose, 36 ± 6 mmol), [Mg](i) rose significantly in the AMI patients over the first 24 hours, and the magnitude of the increase was greater in those who received higher doses of intravenous magnesium sulfate. Conclusions: Sublingual epithelial cell [Mg](i) correlates well with atrial [Mg](i) but not with serum magnesium. [Mg](i) levels are low in patients undergoing cardiac surgery and those with AMI. Intravenous magnesium sulfate corrects low [Mg](i) levels in AMI patients. Energy-dispersive x-ray analysis determination of sublingual cell [Mg](i) may expedite the investigation of the role of magnesium deficiency in heart disease.
- myocardial infarction