A systematic review of magnesium sulfate for perinatal neuroprotection: What have we learnt from the past decade?

Robert Galinsky, Justin M. Dean, Ingran Lingam, Nicola J. Robertson, Carina Mallard, Laura Bennet, Alistair J. Gunn

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22 Citations (Scopus)


There is an important unmet need to improve long term outcomes of encephalopathy for preterm and term infants. Meta-analyses of large controlled trials suggest that maternal treatment with magnesium sulfate (MgSO4) is associated with a reduced risk of cerebral palsy and gross motor dysfunction after premature birth. However, to date, follow up to school age has found an apparent lack of long-term clinical benefit. Because of this inconsistency, it remains controversial whether MgSO4 offers sustained neuroprotection. We systematically reviewed preclinical and clinical studies reported from January 1 2010, to January 31 2020 to evaluate the most recent advances and knowledge gaps relating to the efficacy of MgSO4 for the treatment of perinatal brain injury. The outcomes of MgSO4 in preterm and term-equivalent animal models of perinatal encephalopathy were highly inconsistent between studies. None of the perinatal rodent studies that suggested benefit directly controlled body or brain temperature. The majority of the studies did not control for sex, study long term histological and functional outcomes or use pragmatic treatment regimens and many did not report controlling for potential study bias. Finally, most of the recent preterm or term human studies that tested the potential of MgSO4 for perinatal neuroprotection were relatively underpowered, but nevertheless, suggest that any improvements in neurodevelopment were at best modest or absent. On balance, these data suggest that further rigorous testing in translational preclinical models of perinatal encephalopathy is essential to ensure safety and best regimens for optimal preterm neuroprotection, and before further clinical trials of MgSO4 for perinatal encephalopathy at term are undertaken.

Original languageEnglish
Article number449
Number of pages14
JournalFrontiers in Neurology
Publication statusPublished - 27 May 2020


  • Brain injury
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy
  • Magnesium sulfate
  • Neuroprotection
  • Perinatal encephalopathy

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