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You are here : 3-RX.com > Medical Encyclopedia > Surgeries and Procedures > Chelation Therapy
      Category : Health Centers > Poisoning and Toxicology

Chelation Therapy

Alternate Names : Chelation Treatment

Overview & Description | Preparation & Expectations | Home Care and Complications

Chelation therapy is used to remove poisons, also called toxins, from the body. 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 is bound to the chelator, it can then be passed out of the body. Most often, the toxin is passed into the urine.

Who is a candidate for the procedure?

Doctors use this procedure when there are high levels of certain toxins inside 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 called Wilson disease
  • gold
  • iron, which may build up in the body if a person has many blood transfusions or has a hereditary condition such as hemochromatosis or hemosiderosis
  • lead
  • mercury
  • Before a doctor decides to do chelation therapy, he or she will do a physical exam. The doctor will ask about the person's medical and family history. The doctor may also use one or more of the following tests to check the person's health:

  • blood pressure check
  • 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 other conditions. One disease experts are trying chelation with is atherosclerosis. However, the American Medical Association states that chelation has only been proven 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 in the arm or hand.

    If an IV infusion is needed, the procedure usually takes place in a clinic or in 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 the arm or hand. The chelator is mixed with fluids and slowly infused into the body. While the IV is running, a person can relax, sleep, or do other quiet activities. Most sessions last a 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 and needs. For instance, those with a one-time poisoning may only need a few treatments. Those with Wilson disease often need treatment for life.


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    Chelation Therapy: Preparation & Expectations

    Author: Eileen McLaughlin, RN, BSN
    Reviewer: Adam Brochert, MD
    Date Reviewed: 02/08/02

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