National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine
What is chelation therapy?
Chelation (pronounced key-LAY-shun) therapy is an investigational therapy using a man-made amino acid, called EDTA. It is added to the blood through a vein. An international research study is now testing whether chelation therapy is safe and effective for treating heart disease. Why is this study being conducted?
Many people are considering using chelation therapy because of the belief that it may treat heart disease. However this has not been scientifically proven. Past studies did not show benefit, but may have been too small to be conclusive. That is why the National Institutes of Health is conducting this large study to find out whether chelation therapy is safe and effective in treating heart disease.
Are there any risks or side effects?
Chelation with EDTA has been used to treat heavy metal poisoning such as lead. For this use, there is a low occurrence of side effects. The safety of EDTA for treating heart disease has not been established.
The most common side effect is a burning sensation at the site where the EDTA is delivered into the vein. Rare side effects can include fever, headache, nausea, and vomiting. Even more rare are serious side effects that can include a sudden drop in blood pressure, abnormally low calcium levels in the blood, permanent kidney damage, and bone marrow depression (meaning that blood cell counts fall). Reversible injury to the kidneys, although infrequent, has been reported with EDTA chelation therapy. Other serious side effects can occur if EDTA is not administered by a trained health professional.
In addition, because chelation therapy removes important vitamins and minerals from the body, it will be very important for you to take the vitamin supplements supplied by the study. It is also important that you continue to take your standard heart disease treatments.