THE ALTERED METABOLISM of magnesium in human disease was first studied in 1915, when the loss of magnesium in infantile diarrhea was measured. The magnesium deficiency tetany syndrome, defining magnesium deficiency in the adult human, has been described only very recently, however. This syndrome is virtually identical to hypocalcemie tetany, and can be differentiated from it only by chemical means. The parenteral administration of magnesium sulfate promptly and completely reverses the symptoms, signs, and chemical changes of the magnesium deficiency tetany syndrome of patients afflicted with this disease.
In each instance the syndrome has developed subsequent both to a severe dietary inadequacy of magnesium and one or more of the following additional factors, which either promoted the loss or prevented the absorption of this ion: (1) excessive loss of magnesium from the gastrointestinal tract either by persistent vomiting or by the removal of intestinal secretions by mechanical suction, (2) intestinal