University of Colorado surgery faculty member

The dangers of using e-cigarettes are well known regarding the potential for addiction and lung damage, but new research published in the Surgical Research Journal finds another cause for concern with e-cigarettes: the potential for vaping devices to explode during use.

The study, conducted by members of the Western Pediatric Surgery Research Consortium, found that between January 2016 and December 2019, 15 patients at nine children’s hospitals suffered traumatic injuries from e-cigarette explosions. Ten of them had to be hospitalized, three in intensive care units.

Among the members of the Western Pediatric Surgery Research Consortium who contributed to the research study was Shannon Acker, MD, assistant professor of pediatric surgery at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and pediatric surgeon at Children’s Hospital Colorado .

We spoke with Acker about the study results and what they mean for e-cigarette users and their parents.

Q: Is this a problem you see often?

A: There were 15 patients in this study, and I think four or five of them were from Children’s Hospital Colorado. It was definitely an injury we saw frequently. When we think of e-cigarettes, vaping, and the problems of marketing cigarettes to teens, it usually has to do with addiction and lung damage. As we as trauma surgeons see these other traumatic injuries. The goal was to educate people about other disadvantages of e-cigarettes.

Q: What is in these devices that causes these injuries?

A: Electronic cigarettes use a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that vaporizes the liquid nicotine solution. Because e-cigarettes are so popular, they’re not heavily regulated, and the batteries can be substandard and prone to exploding. The e-cigarette is like a pen with an opening at both ends, so the pressure has to go somewhere. When you press the button to heat the liquid, the battery explodes and the pressure comes out directly. So if it is in your hand or near your face, it will cause injury. There was at least one child in the study whose jaw was broken. It can also cause eye injuries and hand burns – there was a child where it exploded in his hand and caused not only a burn to the skin, but also damage to the radial nerve. Where you hold it when the battery explodes will determine what gets hurt.

Q: Do these injuries often require surgery to repair?

A: Six of the 15 children in the series required surgery. Three of them were skin grafts due to skin burns, one had a broken mandible that needed repair, and one child had a hand injury that needed to be repaired. In another case, the device was much closer to the mouth when it exploded, so the patient knocked out several teeth and had to undergo both a dental exam and an in-room airway exam. of operation.

Q: I’m sure any type of trauma like this will also have psychological effects. Did these teenagers experience anything like this when these injuries occurred?

A: We haven’t looked at that in this study, but we do know that children who suffer from traumatic injuries are at a higher risk of needing future mental health resources, and I think those children fall into that category. . Having something explode on your face when you go out with your friends is going to leave a lasting effect.

Q: Can you tell us how bad the vaping situation has gotten and how many kids are using these devices?

A: The most recent data we found indicates that over 5% of middle school students and 11% of high school students have used e-cigarettes in the last 30 days, and these are now the most commonly used tobacco products. There has been a 900% increase in their use among school-aged users. This seems like a big problem to me.

Q: What was the purpose of this study and dissemination of this information?

A: Our purpose in posting this was to draw people’s attention to the fact that not only are these e-cigarettes harmful because they are addictive and because they can cause associated lung damage, which can be deadly, but they can also explode and cause traumatic injury. We want to educate people and tell them, “These are the risks you face when using e-cigarettes.” We’ve outlined in the paper what the next steps should be, including efforts to reduce e-cigarette use, improve device safety, and educate clinicians about the risk of device explosion.


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