Chelation therapy for heart disease is an alternative treatment that may be an option for some patients. This therapy is not traditionally used for heart disease, but for lead and mercury poisoning. Whether or not this alternative therapy is effective or not for heart disease is shrouded in controversy and the results of various studies are mixed.
What is Chelation Therapy?
During this therapy, EDTA, a man-made amino acid, is injected in a vein. EDTA works to eliminate heavy metal toxins from the blood by binding to them. Disodium EDTA is the type used when treating heart disease, but it has only been approved when used to treat toxic levels of digitalis.
The theory behind chelation therapy for heart disease is that the medicine will bind to the calcium present in plaques in the arteries. Once this occurs, the plaques are then swept away as the medicine travels through the bloodstream.
The belief is that if this therapy can sweep heavy metals out of the body, it can sweep plaque out too, which in turn, would theoretically treat heart disease.
This therapy is generally administered over the course of 40 weeks, once a week. Therapy is done intravenously in a doctor's office. If given orally, lead and iron chelators are usually available.
Are There Any Safety Concerns?
The biggest safety concern is that this therapy is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat heart disease and the American Heart Association does not recommend it to treat heart disease.
Side effects are possible with this therapy, including injection site burning, sudden drop in blood pressure, nausea, inability to create new blood cells, fever, headache, vomiting and mineral deficiencies. To help prevent the mineral deficiencies, patients will be given special supplements after therapy containing large amounts of the minerals this therapy removes from the body. Some patients still experience mineral deficiencies, but this does help many patients as long as they strictly follow the instructions.
In rare cases, permanent kidney failure or damage has occurred. In some studies, death has occurred.
All patients who choose to try this therapy should never stop any conventional medical treatments for heart disease because chelation therapy is not proven to work.
Chelation Therapy Research
As of today, this therapy is still under investigation and is still being studied. The National Institutes of Health is conducting a large study right now to try and determine whether or not chelation therapy is effective for heart disease.
While there is no research to support it, chelation therapy has also been proposed as a treatment for other medical conditions, such as multiple sclerosis, cancer, schizophrenia and autism.
American Heart Association. (2011). Chelation Therapy. Retrieved on March 29, 2011 from the American Heart Association: https://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=4493
Mayo Clinic. (2010). Chelation Therapy for Heart Disease. Retrieved on March 29, 2011 from the Mayo Clinic: https://www.mayoclinic.com/health/chelation-therapy/MY00159