MONDAY, Nov. 5 (HealthDay News) -- A controversial alternative treatment known as chelation therapy, in which a special infusion seeks to remove heavy metals from the body, did show modest benefits for heart patients, researchers report.
The trial -- the first large, long-term study of its kind on the issue -- was funded by the U.S. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine and the U.S. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. However, its findings are not likely to settle the decades-old debate on chelation therapy, which has never gained U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval for use in heart patients.
The trial results were presented Sunday at the American Heart Association (AHA) annual meeting in Los Angeles. Speaking at an AHA press briefing, commentator Dr. Paul Armstrong said chelation therapy has had staunch supporters and equally adamant detractors.
"On one hand, it's been suggested that chelation therapy is valuable, effective and safe, while the other pole of opinion suggests that it's likely unsafe, certainly ineffective and should be abandoned," said Armstrong, chair of the department of medicine at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada.
The treatment is arduous, expensive (about $5,000 on average, according to experts) and involves dozens of infusions of a complex mixture aimed at leaching metals from the body. The new study involved more than 1,700 heart attack patients from 134 sites across North America, most of whom had already undergone major interventions such as bypass surgery or angioplasty.
The patients received 40 infusions of chelation solution, at 500 milliliters per infusion. Some of the patients were randomly assigned to receive the chelating solution, which contained disodium EDTA (an amino acid), vitamin C, B-vitamins, electrolytes, a local anesthetic and the blood thinner heparin. The other patients were
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