Chelation therapy for heart disease
Chelation therapy for heart disease
Chelation therapy — long a treatment for mercury and lead poisoning — isn't a proven treatment for heart disease, and it can be dangerous when used as a heart disease treatment. Even so, some doctors and alternative medicine practitioners have used chelation therapy to treat heart disease and stroke.
The theory behind using chelation therapy for heart disease is that the medicine used in the treatment binds to the calcium that's in fatty deposits (plaques) in your arteries. Once the medicine binds to the calcium, the plaques are swept away as the medicine moves through your bloodstream.
The safety and effectiveness of chelation therapy for heart disease can't be determined, even after the results of the largest study conducted to date, the Trial to Assess Chelation Therapy (TACT), sponsored by the National Institutes of Health.
Neither the American Heart Association nor the American College of Cardiology recommends chelation therapy as a treatment for heart disease, and the Food and Drug Administration hasn't approved chelation therapy for use as a heart disease treatment.
Why it's done
In chelation therapy, a dose of a medication called ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA) is delivered through an intravenous (IV) line. This medication seeks out and binds to minerals in your bloodstream. Once the medication binds to the minerals, it creates a compound that leaves your body in your urine.
Chelation therapy is a proven treatment for lead or mercury poisoning. Some doctors think that chelation therapy could begin to reverse heart disease by binding to the calcium in the plaques clogging your arteries and sweeping it away. No study has proved that this process actually works.
Some doctors are concerned about the safety of chelation therapy as a treatment for heart disease. A burning sensation at the injection site is the most common side effect. Less common but more serious potential side effects of chelation therapy include:
Keep in mind that in chelation therapy, the medication used binds not only to metals and calcium in your blood but also to minerals that are an important part of your diet. Following chelation therapy, you'll be given vitamin supplements that contain large amounts of the minerals that chelation therapy removes from your body. Rare complications of chelation therapy include permanent kidney damage or failure. Deaths have occurred in some chelation studies.
Because of the known risks and unknown benefits of chelation therapy, talk to your doctor before trying it as a heart disease treatment.
How you prepare
Before you choose chelation therapy for heart disease, talk to your doctor about all the risks involved in the procedure.
After weighing the risks, if you decide to have chelation therapy, there are no special preparations necessary. You'll need to sit in a chair for several hours to receive chelation therapy, so dress in comfortable clothing for your visit.
What you can expect
During the procedure
After the procedure
Because the solution used in chelation therapy also binds to vitamins and minerals in your bloodstream, you'll need to take supplements after your procedure to replace them. You'll take the pills until you've finished your series of chelation treatments. Because the supplements are strong, carefully follow the instructions for taking them.
It's unclear whether chelation therapy can prevent or treat heart disease.
Last Updated: 2013-02-27
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