What is DMSA Chelation?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Fish, especially large fish such as tuna, can be a source of mercury in the diet.
Fish, especially large fish such as tuna, can be a source of mercury in the diet.

Dimercaptosuccinic acid (DMSA) chelation is a treatment for heavy metal poisoning. DMSA chelation is most commonly used to remove lead from the body, although it may also be used for mercury poisoning and for dangerous levels of other heavy metals. Chelation needs to be performed under the supervision of a physician who can prescribe the appropriate among to DMSA for the patient and perform tests to monitor the progress of the chelation therapy, and to keep an eye out for signs of complications.

A doctor will recommend DMSA chelation if blood tests show a dangerous level of heavy metals in the blood.
A doctor will recommend DMSA chelation if blood tests show a dangerous level of heavy metals in the blood.

This treatment works by introducing a chelating agent into the body. The DMSA binds with molecules of heavy metals, and is water soluble, carrying the bound metals out of the body through the kidneys. It can take dozens of DMSA chelation sessions to remove all of the heavy metal which has built up in the body, depending on the heavy metal involved, and it may take weeks or months to recover.

Mercury poisoning may cause affected individuals to sweat excessively.
Mercury poisoning may cause affected individuals to sweat excessively.

A doctor will recommend DMSA chelation if blood tests show a dangerous level of heavy metals in the body. The patient is also given supportive fluids and other treatments, including supplementary nutrition which is designed to compensate for the nutrients which are absorbed during chelation sessions. Using blood tests, the doctor can determine the level of heavy metals in the patient's blood at the start of the course of chelation therapy, and again at various points to confirm that the therapy is working.

Checking for lead in the body is a common hematology test for children.
Checking for lead in the body is a common hematology test for children.

Depending on the situation, DMSA chelation can be administered intramuscularly, orally, or intravenously. Oral DMSA may be prescribed so that the patient can take the treatment at home, rather than having to sit for several hours for IV chelation in a hospital setting. The patient must follow directions carefully to ensure that the drug is used correctly when the patient takes medication at home. DMSA should be available through any compounding pharmacy; a doctor may have a recommended pharmacy based on experiences in the past.

IV fluids and supplementary nutrition will compensate for the nutrients absorbed during chelation.
IV fluids and supplementary nutrition will compensate for the nutrients absorbed during chelation.

DMSA chelation is sometimes recommended for off label uses by practitioners of alternative medicine. People may be encouraged to undergo chelation to remove unspecified “toxins” from their body as part of a “detoxification regimen,” or to be chelated to treat a condition which is not related to heavy metal poisoning. Patients should be aware that DMSA chelation can be deadly when it is applied improperly, as for example when there are only low levels of heavy metals present in the body.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

anon1003647

Chelation therapy is only effective in removing heavy metals from the blood. If there is concern that heavy metals have found their way into tissue cells (particularly those of the nervous system), well... The damage is done. Self administration of chelation therapy will not cure genuine cases of damage caused by heavy metals. Not will it cure paranoia.

anon166820

The article says that testing and monitoring the heavy metal levels are done through blood tests. My understanding is that heavy metals would likely only be circulating in the blood stream after acute high exposure. For most of us, heavy metals, in lower doses over long exposure, would be accumulating in the cells of our tissues.

So the typical test is made from a sample of urine accumulated over a period of time, like 6 to 24 hours, depending on the chelation agent.

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    • Fish, especially large fish such as tuna, can be a source of mercury in the diet.
      Fish, especially large fish such as tuna, can be a source of mercury in the diet.
    • A doctor will recommend DMSA chelation if blood tests show a dangerous level of heavy metals in the blood.
      A doctor will recommend DMSA chelation if blood tests show a dangerous level of heavy metals in the blood.
    • Mercury poisoning may cause affected individuals to sweat excessively.
      Mercury poisoning may cause affected individuals to sweat excessively.
    • Checking for lead in the body is a common hematology test for children.
      Checking for lead in the body is a common hematology test for children.
    • IV fluids and supplementary nutrition will compensate for the nutrients absorbed during chelation.
      IV fluids and supplementary nutrition will compensate for the nutrients absorbed during chelation.