Tanzania Journal of Health Research

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The reference range of serum magnesium substance concentration among healthy young adults at Makerere University College of Health Sciences 2012

Andrew L. Okwi, Gabriel S. Bimenya, Lynette K. Tumwine, Emmanuel Othieno, Julius Okot, Charles Ibingira


Background: Magnesium is the second most abundant intracellular cation, with only a small proportion of the body’s content being in the extracellular fluid. It is required for the active transport of other cations such as calcium, sodium and potassium across the membrane by active transport system. It is also needed for many intracellular metabolic pathways. This study was carried to establish the reference intervals for serum magnesium substance concentration among healthy medical students in Uganda.

Methods: This was purposive study in which ante-cubital venous blood samples were drawn without stasis from 60 healthy, natively Ugandan pre-clinical medical students and analysed without delay using Cobasintegra 400/700/800 automated analyser which flagged each result using the in-built seemingly temperate reference range of 0.65-1.05 mmol/L.

Results: The distribution of serum magnesium substance concentration was unimodal, leptokurtic, and positively skewed with empirical range of 0.86 – 1.32 mmol/L. There was no result flagged as low. Twenty-six out of sixty (43.3%) results were flagged as high values while none approached 2.0 mmol/L, considered the threshold of hypermagnesaemia symptoms. Using the central 95 percentile, the reference range was set as 0.81 – 1.29 mmol/L which is higher and slightly broader than the 0.65 – 1.05 mmol/L often quoted for populations in temperate regions and in-built in automated analysers exported even to the tropics.

Conclusion: Reference ranges were higher in the studied healthy young adults in Uganda than those in the temperate regions. Effort should therefore be made to enable our laboratories establish their own reference values.

AJOL African Journals Online