Alternate Names : Chelation Treatment
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:
copper, which may build up when a person has the inherited condition called
iron, which may build up in the body if a person has many
or has a hereditary condition such as hemochromatosis
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:
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
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:
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.