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Chelation therapy for heart disease consists of intravenous infusions of a chemical called EDTA (ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid).
Chelation therapy is controversial. It is widely promoted for the treatment of angina, but there is no meaningful evidence that it is effective, and some evidence that it is not. Proponents claim that EDTA chelation is an effective alternative to heart surgery, and that it also offers many other health benefits.
Effect of Chelation Therapy on Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) and Angina
EDTA is a synthetic substance that is used to remove heavy metals, such as lead, from the body, but it also has an effect on calcium, which is why it came into use in treating hardening of the arteries. (The damaged, brittle vessels found in people with heart disease are lined with calcium deposits.)
Read more details about Chelation Therapy.
Research Evidence on Chelation Therapy
In 2000, a highly respected researcher reviewed the literature on chelation therapy and concluded, “The most striking finding is the almost total lack of convincing evidence for efficacy…. Only 2 controlled clinical trials were located. They provide no evidence that chelation therapy is efficacious beyond a powerful placebo effect…. Given the potential of chelation therapy to cause severe adverse effects, this treatment should now be considered obsolete.”1
Subsequent to this review, a well-designed study compared chelation therapy to placebo in 84 people with coronary artery disease.2 People receiving EDTA chelation showed improvement; however, those receiving placebo also improved—to the same extent.
Another double-blind study evaluated the potential benefits of chelation therapy when added to conventional therapy in the treatment of people with coronary artery disease (CAD).3 Researchers were looking for improvements in the ability of a blood vessel in the arm (the brachial artery) to dilate, but did not find any. However, this study had several limitations in its design, making its results less meaningful than they might have been.
Types of Professionals That Would Be Involved with This Treatment
- Some physicians
Not only does it appear to be ineffective, EDTA chelation therapy may present some safety risks. This treatment is generally given in a series of 10 to 30 sessions. If the practitioner fails to take proper precautions, severe adverse consequences, such as kidney damage, may result. Properly performed chelation therapy is unlikely to cause harm.
- Ernst E. Chelation therapy for coronary heart disease: An overview of all clinical investigations. Am Heart J. 2000;140:4–5.
- Knudtson ML, Wyse DG, Galbraith PD, et al. Chelation therapy for ischemic heart disease: a randomized controlled trial. JAMA. 2002;287:481–486.
- Anderson TJ, Hubacek J, Wyse DG, et al. Effect of chelation therapy on endothelial function in patients with coronary artery disease: PATCH substudy. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2003;41:420–425.
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