Which chelation agents are used in the treatment of lead toxicity?

Updated: Jan 16, 2020
  • Author: Pranay Kathuria, MD, FACP, FASN, FNKF; Chief Editor: Tarakad S Ramachandran, MBBS, MBA, MPH, FAAN, FACP, FAHA, FRCP, FRCPC, FRS, LRCP, MRCP, MRCS  more...
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Succimer is a water-soluble, oral chelating agent that is appropriate for use with BLLs higher than 45 µg/dL. [22, 33]  In a retrospective study from Nigeria, chelation therapy using dimercaptosuccinic acid (DMSA) lowered blood lead levels in children with severe lead poisoning. [34]

D-penicillamine is a second-line oral chelating agent, although it is not approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in lead poisoning.

Edetate (EDTA) calcium disodium (CaNa2 EDTA) is a parenteral chelating agent. It should never be used as the sole agent in patients manifesting with lead encephalopathy, because it does not cross the blood-brain barrier and can potentially lead to exacerbation of lead encephalopathy; dimercaprol, which does cross the blood-brain barrier, should be administered first. Life-threatening hypocalcemia has been reported when disodium EDTA was inadvertently substituted for CaNa2 EDTA.

Dimercaprol (also referred to as British antilewisite [BAL]) is another parenteral chelating agent recommended as an agent of first choice for patients with lead encephalopathy. With high BLLs (ie, > 100 µg/dL), it is used in conjunction with CaNa2 EDTA.

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