Treatment Options

Chelation Therapy as a Treatment for Heart Disease

Possible Harm/No Value

Chelation therapy involves receiving a series of intravenous (IV) infusions that typically contain disodium EDTA (crystalline acid, C10H16N2O8) and various other substances. Chelation therapy is a proven treatment for heavy metal poisoning since EDTA binds well to such metals as mercury and lead. However, it is also being used as a treatment for diseased blood vessels and poor circulation in the arms and legs. Some physicians claim that chelation therapy is able to halt and often reverse heart disease. Some also claim that after chelation therapy any recommended coronary bypass surgery will be unnecessary. The claimed benefits to blood vessels have not been confirmed by scientific studies in the literature. In fact, several studies actually show that chelation therapy does not improve blood flow or the condition of the blood vessels.

In 1998, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) charged that the American College for Advancement of Medicine (ACAM) Web site and associated literature contained false and unsubstantiated claims regarding the health benefits of chelation therapy. In December 1998, the ACAM agreed to settle FTC charges of making the unsubstantiated and false advertising claims. Refer to the FTC Web site http://www.ftc.gov/opa/1998/12/acam.htm for the complete news release.  

Several well-respected organizations have also found no scientific evidence that chelation therapy is effective as a treatment for heart disease. These organizations include the American Heart Association, American Medical Association, American College of Cardiology, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Osteopathic Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Things to Consider

  • Chelation therapy involves the administration of a series of intravenous (IV) infusions typically containing disodium EDTA.
  • Chelation therapy is a proven treatment for heavy metal poisoning (e.g., mercury, lead).
  • Scientific evidence has not proven that chelation therapy is effective as a treatment for heart disease.

Results

Possible Harm/No Value

Will I live longer if I have chelation therapy?

Scientific evidence does not show that chelation therapy prolongs life if used to treat heart disease.

Will the chelation therapy for the treatment of heart disease improve my quality of life?

Scientific evidence does not show that chelation therapy improves one's quality of life when used to treat heart disease.

Does the treatment of heart disease with chelation therapy make my symptoms better?

There is no evidence that chelation therapy improves the symptoms of heart disease.

Safety

Possible Harm/No Value

While complications related to chelation therapy do not appear to be common, some risks are associated with the therapy. This is particularly true if an individual has a condition such as kidney impairment, blood-clotting problems, congestive heart failure, liver impairment, or hypocalcemia. Cases have been reported of chelation therapy causing kidney damage, abnormal bleeding, inflammation in the legs caused by small clots (e.g., thrombophlebitis), reduced calcium levels (e.g., hypocalcemia) leading to heart rhythm abnormalities and other problems. Chelation therapy could also cause a dangerous decrease in the trace metal zinc that could lead to decreased immunity to disease if zinc is not replaced during the treatment period. Since chelation therapy offers no confirmed benefit to health, there is a greater potential for harm instead of benefit.

Comparison

Possible Harm/No Value

Chelation therapy has been used as an alternative or complementary therapy to cholesterol lowering drugs, cardiac cath-lab procedures (e.g., balloon procedure) and open-heart surgery. Unlike chelation therapy, the role and benefit of prescription drugs, cath-lab procedures and open-heart surgery in the prevention or treatment of heart disease is supported by numerous scientific studies. Thus far, reputable published studies indicate that chelation therapy offers no health benefit in the treatment of heart disease.

Cost

Possible Harm/No Value

This therapy usually involves between 20 to 50 treatments. The average cost for one chelation treatment is $116 or more, with 20 to 50 treatments averaging from $2,327 to over $5,818. While this cost is typically less than a cath-lab procedure or open-heart surgery, it is a significant expense for a treatment that offers no confirmed benefit to health.

The cost may or may not be covered by your health benefits plan.

Sources

The following are off-site links off-site link :

Federal Trade Commission. News releases. (1998, December). Medical association settles false advertising charges overpromotion of “chelation therapy”. Retrieved January 8, 2014 from http://www.ftc.gov/opa/1998/12/acam.htm.     

MayoClinic.com. (2013, February). Chelation therapy for heart disease. Retrieved January 8, 2014 from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/chelation-therapy/MY00159

Quackwatch. (2007, July). Chelation therapy: Unproven claims and unsound theories. Retrieved January 8, 2014 from http://www.quackwatch.com/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/chelation.html.

Next Review Date

1/23/2015

This document has been classified as public information.

Table of Findings

results:  possible harm / no value

safety:  possible harm / no value

comparison:  possible harm / no value

cost: possible harm / no value


total: possible harm / no value

legend

scale

Page modified:January 31, 2014