OXFORD, UNITED KINGDOM. Eclampsia is a serious disorder affecting women just prior to or shortly after childbirth. It manifests itself by convulsions and is accompanied by high blood pressure, edema, and protein in the urine. The patient often lapses into a coma and it is estimated that more than 50,000 women die each year from the disorder – mostly in developing countries. Fortunately, eclampsia is not a sudden occurrence but is preceded by a condition called pre-eclampsia. Pre-eclampsia is characterized by high blood pressure and protein in the urine.
Several trials have shown that magnesium sulfate injections are useful in the treatment of pre-eclampsia. A
large international group of researchers now report that magnesium sulfate given (intravenously or by intra-
muscular injection) prior to or just after childbirth halves the risk of eclampsia in women diagnosed with pre-
eclampsia. The study involved over 10,000 pre-eclampsia women in 33 countries who were randomized to
receive either magnesium sulfate or a placebo over a 24-hour period. The incidence of eclampsia was 1.9
per cent in the placebo group versus 0.8 per cent in the magnesium sulfate group, i.e. a 58 per cent relative
reduction. The mortality among women on the placebo was 0.4 per cent versus 0.2 per cent among those
given magnesium sulfate. The researchers conclude that magnesium sulfate is effective in reducing the risk
of eclampsia in women diagnosed with pre-eclampsia.