The three major intracellular components—Mg2+, K+, and PO4-—usually travel together; therefore, the loss and deficiency of one constituent usually leads to the loss and deficiency of the others. As with most intracellular components, loss of total body Mg 2+ may occur when serum levels are normal.

ETIOLOGY A wide variety of problems can cause hypomagnesemia (TabJe 23-16). In adults, magnesium deficiencies are most frequently seen in alcoholics, in malnourished patients, and in patients with cirrhosis, pancreatitis, or excessive gastrointestinal fluid losses. Diarrhea is usually more of a problem (Mg 2+ content of 10 to 14 meq/L) than upper gastrointestinal loss (1 to 2 meq/L).

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