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Chelation Therapy

  • Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Publication Type:


Chelation Therapy

How to Say It: Key-lay-shun Ther-a-pee


Chelation therapy uses special medicines called agents to remove heavy metals from the body. The agents bind to the heavy metals in the blood. Once they bind, they can leave the body in urine or stool. Examples of heavy metals are:

  • Lead
  • Arsenic
  • Mercury
  • Iron
  • Copper
  • Gold

Reasons for Procedure

Chelation therapy is done to treat metal toxicity. This is when exposure to metal causes problems with how the body works. It can be most harmful to organs like the brain, kidney, and liver.

Metal toxicity may be caused by:

  • Metals that enter through the mouth, such as iron pills or eating paint chips or dirt with lead
  • Water that has high levels of lead, mercury, or arsenic
  • Food that may contain things like pesticides or mercury
  • Air that contains cigarette smoke, paint fumes, pesticide sprays, or gasoline fumes
  • Certain jobs, such as foundry, printing, mining, or petroleum work

Heavy metals can also build up from certain some health problems such as:

Heavy Metal Poisoning Can Lead to Liver Damage.

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Possible Complications

Problems are rare, but all procedures have some risk. The doctor will go over some problems that could happen, such as:

  • Allergic reaction
  • Uneven heartbeats
  • Vision problems
  • Kidney failure
  • Organ damage
  • Death

Things that may raise the risk of problems are:

What to Expect

Problems to Look Out For

Call the doctor if you are not getting better or you have:

  • Signs of infection, such as fever and chills
  • Lightheadedness, fainting, clumsiness, vision problems, or problems thinking
  • Lasting nausea or vomiting
  • Pain, burning, or other problems urinating (peeing)
  • Uneven heartbeats
  • Yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes
  • Signs of an allergic reaction, such as itching, hives, or a rash
  • Worsening symptoms

If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.

Prior to Procedure

The care team will meet with you to talk about:

  • Any allergies you may have
  • Current medicines, herbs, and supplements that you take and whether you need to stop taking them before therapy
  • Tests that will need to be done




  • Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). What Do Parents Need to Know to Protect Their Children? CDC 2016 Jun 6.
  • Chelation therapy. Iron Disorders Institute website. Available at: http://www.irondisorders.org/chelation-therapy.
  • Chelation: Therapy or “therapy”? National Capital Poison Center website. Available at: http://www.poison.org/articles/2011-mar/chelation-therapy.
  • Heavy metal poisoning. NORD—National Organization for Rare Disorders website. Available at: https://rarediseases.org/rare-diseases/heavy-metal-poisoning.
  • Lead toxicity—emergency management. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/management/lead-toxicity-emergency-management-11.


  • Daniel A. Ostrovsky, MD
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.