Can chelation therapy treat heart disease?
Answers from Rekha Mankad, M.D.
It's unclear whether chelation therapy can treat heart disease. Chelation therapy has been used for many years as a treatment for mercury and lead poisoning, but it isn't a proven treatment for heart disease. It can potentially cause serious side effects when used as a heart disease treatment. Even so, some doctors and complementary health practitioners have used chelation therapy to treat heart disease and stroke.
In chelation therapy, a dose of a medication called ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA) is delivered into your bloodstream 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.
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 a large-scale study was conducted to determine just that. Results of the Trial to Assess Chelation Therapy (TACT), sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, didn't provide enough evidence to support routine use of chelation therapy for heart disease.
The American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology have determined that it's uncertain whether chelation therapy is useful as a treatment for heart disease, and the Food and Drug Administration hasn't approved chelation therapy for use as a heart disease treatment.
Some doctors are concerned about the safety of chelation therapy as a treatment for heart disease. A burning sensation at the IV site is the most common side effect. Less common side effects include fever, headache, nausea or vomiting. Other rare but serious complications that have been reported include abnormally low blood-calcium levels (hypocalcemia), permanent kidney damage or death.
Because of the known risks of chelation therapy, discuss this and other options with your doctor before trying chelation therapy as a heart disease treatment.
Feb. 11, 2016
See more Expert Answers
- Questions and answers: The NIH trial of EDTA chelation therapy for coronary heart disease. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/news/press-releases/supplement/questions-and-answers-the-nih-trial-of-edta-chelation-therapy-for-coronary-heart-disease. Accessed Nov. 10, 2015.
- Chelation for coronary heart disease. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. https://nccih.nih.gov/health/chelation. Accessed Nov. 10, 2015.
- Peguero JG, et al. Chelation therapy and cardiovascular disease: Connecting scientific silos to benefit cardiac patients. Trends in Cardiovascular Medicine. 2014;24:232.
- Fihn SD, et al. 2014 ACC/AHA/AATS/PCNA/SCAI/STS focused update of the guideline for the diagnosis and management of patients with stable ischemic heart disease: A report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines, and the American Association for Thoracic Surgery, Preventive Cardiovascular Nurses Association, Society for Cardiovascular Angiography and Interventions, and Society of Thoracic Surgeons. The Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery. 2015;149:e5.
- Fuster V, et al., eds. Complementary and alternative medical therapy in cardiovascular care. In: Hurst's The Heart. 13th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2011. http://www.accessmedicine.com. Accessed Nov. 10, 2015.
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