What is Chelation Therapy?

NewsGuard 100/100 Score

Chelation therapy involves the administration of chelating agents to treat toxic metal poisoning. These chelating agents or chelants are used to remove heavy metals from the body in cases of overdose, poisoning or accumulation. The chelants are ligands that bind to metals present in the blood and tissues.

They form complexes called chelates that are chemically inert and can be easily be excreted without interacting any further with the body. In this way, chelation therapy detoxifies poisonous metals such as arsenic, lead or mercury. Depending on the agent used and the type of metal intoxication, chelating agents may be taken orally or injected into a vein or muscle.

Uses of chelation therapy

Some examples of clinical scenarios where chelation therapy is indicated include:

  • Poisoning with heavy metals including lead, mercury, and arsenic
  • Overdose of medications containing metal ions
  • Accumulation of large amounts of iron in the body due to repeated blood transfusions, such as in the case of thalassemia patients who require frequent blood transfusions.
  • Accumulation of large amounts of copper in the body due to Wilson's disease, a condition where the body is unable to excrete copper normally.

Several studies have been conducted to test the effects of chelation therapy in other disorders such as cancer, heart disease and autism. However, no solid evidence to support use of the therapy for these conditions has yet been found.

Some examples of chelating agents include:

  • One of the first chelators was the organic dithiol compound dimercaprolt, which was developed as an antidote to an arsenic-based chemical warfare agent called lewisite. The agent is also known of as British anti-Lewisite or BAL.
  • One of the most common chelants used to treat lead, mercury or arsenic poisoning is dimercaptosuccinic acid (DMSA). DMSA is a modified version of BAL that was developed in the 1960s and has far less side effects than BAL.
  • Dimercapto-propane-sulfonate (DMPS) acts as an arsenic and mercury chelator.
  • Alpha lipoic acid (ALA) is a nutritional supplement that transforms into dithiol dihydrolipoic acid, a chelator of both mercury and arsenic.
  • Ethylenediamine tetraacetic acid (EDTA) is a lead and mercury chelating agent. Calcium ethylenediamine tetraacetic acid (CaNaEDTA) is given as an injection to treat severe lead poisoning.
  • D-Penicillamine is used to chelate and remove copper and is a useful treatment for patients with Wilson's disease.
  • Deferoxamine and deferasirox are chelating agents that help remove excess iron from the body. These agents may be used to treat cases of iron poisoning and are also useful in the treatment of thalassemia patients who are prone to iron overload due to frequent blood transfusions.

Further Reading

Last Updated: Jun 16, 2023

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Written by

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.


Please use one of the following formats to cite this article in your essay, paper or report:

  • APA

    Mandal, Ananya. (2023, June 16). What is Chelation Therapy?. News-Medical. Retrieved on April 13, 2024 from https://www.news-medical.net/health/What-is-Chelation-Therapy.aspx.

  • MLA

    Mandal, Ananya. "What is Chelation Therapy?". News-Medical. 13 April 2024. <https://www.news-medical.net/health/What-is-Chelation-Therapy.aspx>.

  • Chicago

    Mandal, Ananya. "What is Chelation Therapy?". News-Medical. https://www.news-medical.net/health/What-is-Chelation-Therapy.aspx. (accessed April 13, 2024).

  • Harvard

    Mandal, Ananya. 2023. What is Chelation Therapy?. News-Medical, viewed 13 April 2024, https://www.news-medical.net/health/What-is-Chelation-Therapy.aspx.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
Post a new comment

While we only use edited and approved content for Azthena answers, it may on occasions provide incorrect responses. Please confirm any data provided with the related suppliers or authors. We do not provide medical advice, if you search for medical information you must always consult a medical professional before acting on any information provided.

Your questions, but not your email details will be shared with OpenAI and retained for 30 days in accordance with their privacy principles.

Please do not ask questions that use sensitive or confidential information.

Read the full Terms & Conditions.