Vaping-Induced Lung Damage Leads to a Double Lung Transplant

The 16-year-old male patient described by his family as “Perfectly healthy athlete” was facing imminent death before a lung transplant procedure to replace his severely damaged lungs.

A Michigan youth was the first to undergo a double lung transplant due to severe vaping-associated lung damage. The patient was in critical condition and nearly faced death, this was said by Dr. Hassan Nemeh of Detroit’s Henry Ford Hospital during a press conference on Tuesday.

Pneumonia x ray

Pneumonia X Ray

This patient, currently choosing to stay anonymous, was first admitted to a Detroit-area hospital with symptoms resembling pneumonia in September. Even though he underwent treatment for pneumonia, his condition gradually deteriorated until he was transferred to an intensive unit at Detroit Children’s hospital. Here the teenager was diagnosed with an e-cigarette or vaping product use associated lung injury (EVALI).

The young athlete’s condition worsened to a point where he was forced to seek a lung transplant. Luckily a donor was found, and he was transferred to Henry Ford Hospital on October 3rd, where he received his groundbreaking operation only 12 days later.

The condition of the patient’s lungs was something that not even Dr. Nemeh, a practicing transplant surgeon with over 20 years of experience, could have expected. He noted that the patient’s lungs were so scarred and inflamed he had to “deliver” it out of the patient’s chest. 

The patient and his family have chosen to remain anonymous for now, but they have made a statement via the Henry Ford Hospital administration warning against the dangers of vaping. “Our family has being caught at the center of one of the largest adolescent health crises in decades.”

This tragic event has marred the life of the teenage patient considerably. Quoting the family, “He has gone from a typical life of a teenager – attending high school, sailing and playing video games – to waking up to two new lungs, painful recovery and the struggle to regain his strength and mobility, his future severely impacted.”

The past three months have seen an outbreak covering 49 states and over 2,000 patients. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently warned e-cigarette users that vitamin E acetate, a compound commonly used to thicken vaping liquid or to simulate Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), has been linked to the development of EVALI. As of November 5th, 39 patients have already succumbed to this epidemic, with their median age being just 53.

The newly classified disease causes pneumonia-like symptoms but is much more severe, causing “wet lung” or the buildup of fluid within the lungs, leading to shortness of breath, cough, fever, and eventually complete lung failure. A scientific paper recently published in The Lancet outlines the procedures required to treat patients with EVALI. It mostly encompasses the use of steroids to fight the associated inflammation.

There is much controversy on the use of lung transplants for EVALI. Some physicians state that more emphasis should be put on prevention, as the supply of donor’s lungs is severely low as is. A recommendation to cease the use of e-cigarettes might become a daily fact for healthcare providers.

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