Chelation therapy uses special medicines called agents to remove heavy metals from the body. The agents bind to the heavy metals in the blood. Once they bind, they can leave the body in urine or stool. Examples of heavy metals are:
Chelation therapy is done to treat metal toxicity. This is when exposure to metal causes problems with how the body works. It can be most harmful to organs like the brain, kidney, and liver.
Metal toxicity may be caused by:
Heavy metals can also build up from certain some health problems such as:
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Problems are rare, but all procedures have some risk. The doctor will go over some problems that could happen, such as:
Things that may raise the risk of problems are:
The care team will meet with you to talk about:
The agent and method that is used depends on what metal is causing the problem. Some agents are taken by mouth. Others are given by injection or through an IV.
The amount of time it takes depends on the type of metal poisoning and the treatment.
IV or injection chelation therapy may be repeated over a period of weeks or months. Some IV drugs will need to be given over a period of hours during each visit.
Discomfort is common after an injection or IV insertion. Medicine and home care can help.
At the Care Center
Right after the procedure, the staff will monitor you for side effects, such as a headache or rash.
Some dietary changes may be advised to help remove the metal from the body. It will also be important to avoid further exposure.
Call the doctor if you are not getting better or you have:
If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Occupational Safety and Health Administration
Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety
Public Health Agency of Canada
Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). What Do Parents Need to Know to Protect Their Children? CDC 2016 Jun 6.
Chelation therapy. Iron Disorders Institute website. Available at: http://www.irondisorders.org/chelation-therapy. Accessed October 20, 2020.
Chelation: Therapy or “therapy”? National Capital Poison Center website. Available at: http://www.poison.org/articles/2011-mar/chelation-therapy. Accessed October 20, 2020.
Heavy metal poisoning. NORD—National Organization for Rare Disorders website. Available at: https://rarediseases.org/rare-diseases/heavy-metal-poisoning. Accessed October 20, 2020.
Lead toxicity—emergency management. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/management/lead-toxicity-emergency-management-11. Accessed October 20, 2020.
Last reviewed September 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Daniel A. Ostrovsky, MD Last Updated: 10/20/2020