Canadian vaper, 17, suffers a new type of e-cigarette illness dubbed ‘popcorn lung’ and is put on life support just five months after taking up the habit
- Ontario teenager had chemical burns in airways that left him gasping for breath
- He had been puffing on sweet, fruity vape oils and admitted adding THC to them
- Was hooked up to life support and had hole cut in his throat to get air to his lungs
- Case different from vape illness sweeping US, which damages air sacs in lungs
A teenager was nearly killed by a new kind of vaping-related injury dubbed ‘popcorn lung’ just months after taking up e-cigarettes.
The 17-year-old, from Ontario, Canada, was taken to A&E last year with a severe cough, fever and shortness of breath.
He was misdiagnosed with pneumonia, a lung infection, and sent home with a prescription for antibiotics.
But the unidentified teenager returned five days later, still gasping for breath, with fatigue and nausea.
Doctors learned that in the five months prior, he had started vaping heavily every day using a mix of flavoured e-cigarette oils bought online.
A 17-year-old from Ontario, Canada, was nearly killed by a new kind of vaping-related injury dubbed ‘popcorn lung’ following months of intensive e-cigarette use
He liked sweet and fruity flavours such as green apple, cotton candy and ‘dew mountain’, a spin on the popular energy drink Mountain Dew.
The patient also admitted adding THC, the psychoactive agent in marijuana, to his liquids.
Black market THC products are thought to be the culprit for the vaping epidemic in the US that has seen 42 deaths and more than 2,000 hospitalisations.
Following a series of X-rays and CT scans, medics diagnosed the teenager with bronchiolitis obliterans, or ‘popcorn lung’.
WHAT IS POPCORN LUNG?
The nickname for bronchiolitis obliterans.
The condition damages your lungs’ smallest airways and makes you cough and feel short of breath.
It’s sometimes caused by breathing in a chemical used to flavour microwave popcorn. But other chemicals or lung illnesses can also cause popcorn lung.
What Causes Popcorn Lung?
The chemical that gave this condition its nickname is diacetyl. After workers at a factory that packaged microwave popcorn were found to have bronchiolitis obliterans more often than other people, some companies stopped using diacetyl as a flavoring.
But it’s still used in some electronic cigarette flavors in the US. Many e-cigarette makers state they aren’t using this chemical in their products and its use in e-cigarettes is banned in Europe.
Another common cause is acetaldehyde, a chemical found in the smoke from marijuana and some electronic cigarettes. Acetaldehyde also can damage the lining of your mouth, throat, and stomach.
The serious and irreversible lung injury is caused by inhaling diacetyl, the chemical that provides a buttery or caramel-like flavour to popcorn.
Although diacetyl is safe to eat, it can be deadly to inhale. Medics believe the patient’s vape liquids were flavoured with the chemical, or something similar.
The case shares similarities with the vaping-related illness in the US, dubbed EVALI.
But the injury is different, according to the team of doctors from the London Health Sciences Centre, who revealed the tale in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.
Instead of damaging air sacs inside the lungs, the teenager’s airways were chemically burned.
He was hooked up to a ventilator, but his condition continued to deteriorate. Over the next two weeks, he was placed on life support and an artificial lung was needed to pump oxygen through his body.
Doctors had to perform a tracheostomy, which involved slicing an opening in his neck and placing a tube in his windpipe to get air to his lungs.
Fearing he might need a double lung transplant, the team transferred the teen to the Toronto General Hospital for evaluation at its lung transplant program.
But he managed to avoid having the operation when high-dose steroids helped reduce inflammation. After 47 days in hospital the teenager was discharged.
But four months later he still has trouble breathing, medics said. They are unsure if his lungs will ever fully recover.