EDTA chelation therapy uses a compound called ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid. EDTA is able to bind to certain metals via a process called chelation. This binding causes them to be unable to react with anything else. It also causes the kidneys to remove the EDTA/metal complex from the blood. EDTA chelation therapy is commonly used to treat poisoning from heavy metals (such as lead or mercury), but it has also been promoted as a way of treating atherosclerosis.
EDTA chelation therapy is typically given intravenously, with the drug slowly infused into the blood. The most common side effect from EDTA chelation therapy is a burning feeling where the medication is being injected. Other side effects include gastrointestinal problems, such as nausea and vomiting, as well as a headache. In some cases patients receiving EDTA chelation therapy may also experience a sudden drop in blood sugar (hypoglycemia) or in blood pressure (hypotension). These conditions can lead to dizziness or unconsciousness.
EDTA is able to bind to calcium and can cause calcium to be pulled out of the blood. Consequently, one potential side effect of EDTA chelation therapy is low calcium levels, also known as hypocalcemia. Calcium is very important for muscle and nerve function. Consequently, sudden drops in calcium can affect both the heart and the brain. EDTA treatment can cause calcium to drop to dangerously low levels, resulting in heart arrythmias and seizures as both organs develop abnormal electrical activity.
Another side effect of EDTA therapy is kidney failure. This is because EDTA binds to minerals and causes the kidneys to filter them out. However, in the process, it can overwork the kidney, leading to a condition known as acute tubular necrosis. This can cause permanent kidney damage and, in severe cases, will cause the patient to need either a kidney transplant or lifelong dialysis.
Bone Marrow Depression
EDTA chelation therapy can also lead to the bone marrow being inhibited or suppressed. Because the bone marrow is responsible for making blood cells, this can result in inadequate blood cell production, leading to anemia. This can be especially dangerous for patients with bleeding disorders or other forms of anemia.