The study was performed to evaluate whether magnesium sulfate could alter the degree of disruption of the blood-brain barrier (BBB) caused by hyperosmotic mannitol. Wistar adult female rats were infused with 25% mannitol into the left internal carotid artery. Each animal received intraperitoneally a 300 mg/kg loading dose of magnesium sulfate, dissolved in 0.9% saline, followed by a further 100 mg/kg dose. In the other group, intracarotid infusion of magnesium sulfate was performed at a dose of 150 mg/kg 10 min before mannitol administration. Evans blue (EB) dye was used as a marker of BBB disruption. The measured serum glucose and magnesium levels increased after mannitol and/or magnesium administration when compared with their initial values before treatment (P < 0.01). Water content of the left hemisphere was significantly increased by hyperosmotic mannitol (P < 0.01). The increased water content in the mannitol-perfused hemisphere was significantly decreased by magnesium treatment (P < 0.05). The content of EB dye in the mannitol-perfused hemisphere markedly increased when compared with the right hemisphere of the same brain (P < 0.01). The EB dye content in the mannitol-perfused hemisphere following both intraperitoneal and intraarterial administration of magnesium decreased when compared with mannitol alone (P < 0.01). We conclude that although magnesium sulfate administration by both intracarotid arterial and intraperitoneal routes attenuates BBB disruption caused by hyperosmolar mannitol, particularly intraperitoneal route of magnesium sulfate administration may provide a useful strategy to limit the transient osmotic opening of the BBB. (C) 2004 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.