The word "chelation" in Chelation Therapy stems from “chele” or “claw” in Greek. It means to “claw out” impurities from the body. See Images 3 & 4. The synthetic amino acid ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA) is one of the main chelating compounds McDonagh Medical Center uses to remove heavy metals, deposits of excess minerals, reduce inflammation and enhance blood flow to tissues.
Edward McDonagh, DO, began using IV EDTA in 1967. Later, Charles Rudolph, Jr, DO, PhD joined Dr McDonagh in 1977 and formed a partnership. That year the two had the McDonagh Medical Center building constructed in its current location and became leaders in chelation therapy in the US.
Chelation Therapy Can Help:
Remove Heavy Metals
The use of chelation therapy employing EDTA can be described in detail at various other websites including that of the American College for Advancement in Medicine (www.acam.org). McDonagh Medical Center’s use of EDTA in degenerative diseases is off-label, but very much evidence based, with 46 years of clinical outcomes we have published on the benefits of this therapy. Additionally, we would like to offer some scientific evidence that this therapy, whose benefits are considered controversial in traditional medical circles, has a definitive use in disorders of the cardiovascular system.
Chelation therapy with EDTA is a therapy that we, as demonstrated in our published papers, have used (see papers 5, 14, 23, 24, 27 & 30) successfully in treating the calcific disorders of mankind, namely atherosclerotic vascular diseases and certain types of arthritis (29). See Image 1.
Chelating agents have long been a part of standard therapeutic regimes in medicine (1). Chelation therapy with EDTA is the therapy of choice for removing certain heavy metals, especially lead, from the body (2). See Image 2.
As with many medical stories, its use for these conditions was accidentally discovered in the 1950s in Michigan when Norman E. Clarke, Sr, MD, treated individuals with lead poisoning using EDTA. He reported that those patients with coronary heart disease noticed an improvement in their cardiac symptoms as well as obtained relief from their lead toxicity (3). From this discovery, the modern era of chelation therapy began.
Chemically, the chelating agent is a negatively charged, claw shaped molecule which attacks a positively charged metal, surrounding it rendering it inactive, eventually removing it from the body. A chemical ball and stick diagram of a chelating agent attacking a metal ion is pictured. See Image 5. There are many theories as to how this treatment is medically useful to the patient with calcified blocked arteries (see papers 5, 14, 23, 24, 27 & 30). The reader must realize what a theory is and that is an assumption or guess based on limited knowledge or information (4). Originally it was theorized that EDTA simply traversed the arteries (as depicted), binding calcium and dissolving plaque but that probably is inaccurate. See Image 6.
Two current theories exist as to how EDTA actually improves circulation as we have previously demonstrated. The first is the Parathyroid Theory. The parathyroid glands are four in number and are located in the neck behind or in proximity to the thyroid gland. The function of parathyroid hormone is to maintain calcium levels in the blood. It does so partly by breaking down calcium deposits in the body (5). When EDTA is infused into the bloodstream, it lowers the serum calcium which causes the parathyroid hormone (PTH) to be released in large quantities (6). The PTH may theoretically be aiding in the plaque dissolution from the arteriosclerotic deposits but the explanation of our results has not been proved at the molecular level, hence it is just a theory at this point. See Image 7.
The Second theory is the Free Radical Theory (7). A free radical is a highly charged molecule that contains an unpaired electron (note: in most stable atoms, electrons are paired). This free radical is very energetic and wreaks havoc on the tissues. See Image 8. It is a generally held premise that these free radicals are formed naturally (by the leakage of the electron transport system in cellular metabolic machinery) and unnaturally by the intake of oxidized or heated fatty foods, smoking, excess alcohol intake, etc. (8). Once formed, these free radicals continue to proliferate because metal ions such as iron and copper catalyze their formation and propagation (7). The hydroxy free radical then attacks the unsaturated fatty acid in the membrane that surrounds the cell, capable of destroying the cell (9). See Image 9. This can result in cell death and degeneration and may be a precursor to atherosclerotic vascular disease. The way chelation appears to intervene is by reducing free iron and copper. The overwhelming free radical generation can then be stopped, minimized or slowed to a point that our tissue antioxidants can keep up with the problem (7).
In addition, it must not be forgotten that EDTA removes heavy metals such as lead and cadmium, both of which can contribute to hypertension which is an equivalent risk factor for heart disease (10, 11).
With regards to the side effects of this therapy, the only real criticism that has persisted is that this therapy affects the kidneys negatively. In the Research section we have addressed that very issue and report that not only is EDTA not nephrotoxic when used properly (according to ACAM protocol ), but it may actually improve kidney function (13).
All of the above theories sound plausible but as stated they are only theories to help explain our results. One purpose of this web site is to show the clinical results from our combined 50+ years of experience with this therapy. To view these results, go to the Research section.
- Physicians Desk Reference, 49thed, 1995, pages 879, 1380, 1438, 1519.
- Conn RB: Current Diagnosis 1991; 409-11.
- Clark NE, Clarke NE Jr, Mosher R: Treatment of Occlusive Vascular Disease with Disodium Ethylenediaminetetraacetic Acid (EDTA). Am J Med Sci 1960; 239:732-44.
- Soukhanov AH, Sr Ed.: Webster’s II New Riverside University Dictionary. Riverside Publishing Co 1984; 1200.
- Shepard RS: Human Physiology. JB Lippincott, pub 1971; 389.
- Rozema T., unpublished communication from lecture at international chelation conference in Prague.
- Cranton EM, Frackleton J: Free radical pathology in age associated diseases: Treatment with EDTA chelation, nutrition and anti-oxidants. J Holistic Med 1984; 6:6-37.
- Demopoulos HB: Control of free radicals in biological systems. Fed Proc 1973; 32: 1903-8.
- Halstead BW: The Scientific Basis of EDTA Chelation Therapy. California: Golden Quill 1979.
- Bautman V, Landy E, Maesaka JK, Wedeen RP: Contribution of lead to hypertension with renal impairment. New Eng J Med 1983; 390(1):17-21.
- 11.Perry H: Hypertension and the geochemical environment. Ann NY Acad Sci 1972; 199: 202.
- 12.Cranton EM: Protocol of the American College for Advancement in Medicine for the safe and effective administration of EDTA chelation therapy. J Adv Med 1989; 2:296-306.
- McDonagh EW, Rudolph CJ, Cheraskin E: The effect of EDTA salts plus supportive multivitamin trace mineral supplementation upon renal function: a study in serum creatinine. J Hol Med 1982; 4(2): 146-51.
Note: Many of the pictures have been taken and reproduced with permission from the book, The Scientific Basis for Chelation Therapy by Rozema and Halstead. In an effort to comply with the rules of truthful advertising and the ACAM settlement agreement with the FTC, this section of the web site was reconstructed and duly referenced with the aid of counsel, in November, 1999.
Drs Rudolph and McDonagh authored two scientific papers that should put to rest the rumor that, when used properly, chelation therapy causes kidney damage (6 & 18) which traditional practitioners, unfamiliar with the treatment, use to frighten prospective patients from this therapy. For a detailed analysis on this controversy, see our section on Safety of EDTA below. After reading, it will be apparent that kidney function, on average, improves with our program.
The most common question I get asked is whether it is safe. Typically, a patient asks their family Doctor whether it is safe and he says absolutely not. It will kill your kidneys. Unfortunately your Physician is not only misguided but also out of date. In the 1950s when this drug first started being used in vascular disease, people were searching for the safest effective dose which in pharmaceutical terms is 50 mg/Kg or 23 mg/lb of lean body mass or approximately a 3000 mg (3 grams) dose infused over 3 hrs. Unfortunately some Doctor, figuring if a little is good then more would be better, gave a patient 9 grams (3 times more than we use) and infused it in 30 minutes (6 times faster than we do) hence giving it 18 times faster. The kidneys could not handle such a rapid detoxification and there were several deaths from renal failure. The problem is that your family Doctor is not aware of this and were he to give you 18 times more Digitalis than is safe, he would stop your heart and you would have the same end result that those patients in the 1950s experienced, namely death. This could be true of many drugs given in close to a 20 fold overdose.
When one questions the FDA, they admit that toxicity is not an issue with EDTA but this was not enough for the Doctors at the clinic. They, in the sake of good medical practice, do blood tests every 10 treatments with a comprehensive testing after 30 bottles. What they were doing was collecting a massive amount of scientific data because all of the blood work was done by Labcorp, one of the two largest labs in the country, and an independent entity not associated with the clinic. In the early 1980s the Doctors looked at creatinine and BUN (Blood Urea Nitrogen) levels (the two most generally accepted kidney function tests) in 383 patients that had completed 30 treatments with EDTA and found not only that the patients were not dying of kidney failure but that the kidneys got 15% better after the treatments (paper 6 & 18). This improvement might be explained in many ways including lowering blood pressure (paper #17), removing heavy metals (Cadmium and Lead both contribute to hypertension) or even improvement in blood flow in the renal artery (the artery to the kidney) which was documented by the pioneering doctors at the Clinic (paper #32).
In summary, I know a person has almost blind faith in their Doctors but this is the age of communication and most patients, via the internet, are as informed as their Doctors about many subjects yet we still have this built in prejudice against a treatment that really helps patients.
When patients ask their family physicians about IV EDTA, there is a perpetuated misconception that continues to be thrust upon the lay public. Unfortunately, these physicians are not only misguided but they are dispensing outdated information. In the 1950s when this drug first started being used in vascular disease, people were searching for the safest effective dose. In pharmaceutical terms this dose was established to be 50 mg/kg or 23 mg/lb of lean body mass or approximately a 3000 mg (3 gram) dose infused over 3 hrs. Unfortunately, some physician, figuring if a little is good then more would be better, gave a patient 9 grams (3 times more than we use) and infused it in 30 minutes (6 times faster than we do), hence giving it 18 times faster. The kidneys could not handle such a rapid detoxification which resulted in several deaths from renal failure. The problem is that your family physician is ignorant to this historical fact and were he or she to give you 18 times more digitalis than is safe, he or she would stop your heart and you would have the same end result that those patients in the 1950s experienced, namely death. This could be true of many drugs given in close to a 20-fold overdose.
When one questions the FDA, they admit that toxicity is not an issue with EDTA but this was not enough for the physicians at McDonagh Medical Center. They, in the sake of good medical practice, established safety protocols which included obtaining blood tests every 10 treatments with comprehensive testing after 30 bottles. By doing this, a massive amount of scientific data was collected because all of the laboratory analysis was performed by Labcorp, one of the two largest labs in the country, and an independent entity not associated with the clinic. In the early 1980s the Doctors looked at creatinine and Blood Urea Nitrogen (BUN) levels (the two most generally accepted kidney function tests) in 383 patients who had completed 30 treatments with EDTA and found that not only were the patients not dying of kidney failure, but that the kidney function improved by 15% after the treatments (6 & 18). This improvement might be explained in many ways including lowering blood pressure (17), removing heavy metals (Cadmium and Lead both contribute to hypertension) or even improvement in blood flow in the renal arteries (the arteries to the kidney) which was documented by the pioneering physicians at McDonagh Medical Center (32).