Chelation Therapy

Overview & Description

Chelation therapy is used to remove poisons, also called toxins, from thebody. The most common use is for poisoning with a heavy metal, such as lead.Chelation uses a substance called a chelator to bind to the toxins. Once a toxin isbound to the chelator, it can then be passed out of the body. Most often, the toxin ispassed into the urine.

Who is a candidate for the procedure?

Doctors use this procedure when there are high levels of certain toxinsinside the body. Toxins that may be treated with this procedure include:

  • arsenic
  • cadmium
  • copper, which may build up when a person has the inherited condition calledWilson disease
  • gold
  • iron, which may build up in the body if a person has manyblood transfusionsor has a hereditary condition such as hemochromatosisor hemosiderosis
  • lead
  • mercury
  • Before a doctor decides to do chelation therapy, he or she will do aphysical exam. The doctor will ask about the person’s medical and family history. Thedoctor may also use one or more of the following tests to check the person’s health:

  • blood pressurecheck
  • a blood test to measure the exact level of toxin in the body
  • an electrocardiogram, or EKG
  • kidney function tests
  • liver function tests
  • Other tests may also be used in certain settings.

    Research is being done to see how well this therapy works for otherconditions. One disease experts are trying chelation with isatherosclerosis.However, the American Medical Association states that chelation has only beenproven useful for heavy metal poisoning.

    How is the procedure performed?

    There are several chelators in use, including the following:

  • EDTA
  • penicillamine
  • succimer
  • Any of these can be given through an intravenous line,called an IV, or as a pill. An IV is a thin tube inserted through the skin and into a vein, usually inthe arm or hand.

    If an IV infusion is needed, the procedure usually takes place in a clinic orin the doctor’s office. Sometimes, a person may need to be in the hospital,such as in cases of severe lead poisoning.A person can usually choose to sit or lie down. Next, an IV is started in a vein in thearm or hand. The chelator is mixed with fluids and slowly infused into the body. While theIV is running, a person can relax, sleep, or do other quiet activities. Most sessions lasta few hours, though some may be shorter or longer. The session is usually painless.Those who choose a pill form can take the pill at home just like any other medicine.

    The total number of treatments given depends on the person’s health andneeds. For instance, those with a one-time poisoning may only need a few treatments.Those with Wilson diseaseoften need treatment for life.

    Preparation & Expectations

    What happens right after the procedure?

    Blood tests are usually done during and after therapy. These tests canmonitor the level of the toxin in the body and help check for side effects.

    Home Care and Complications

    What happens later at home?

    No home care is usually needed. If unusual symptoms occur aftertreatment, such as dizziness,vomiting,or chest pain,the doctor should be contacted.

    What are the potential complications after the procedure?

    Side effects depend on the agent used.

  • EDTA can cause kidney damage,fever, andfatigue.
  • Penicillamine can cause anemiaand a condition called systemic lupus erythematosus.
  • Succimer can cause stomach upset, skin rash, and liver damage.
  • Other agents may also be used, each with its own side effects. The doctor will discuss sideeffects before the procedure.

    Article type: xmedgeneral