Ill Vaper Undergoes Double Lung Transplant

DETROIT (AP) — Doctors at a Detroit hospital have performed what could be the first double lung transplant on a man whose lungs were damaged from vaping.

No other details of the transplant were released Monday by Henry Ford Health System, which has called a news conference for Tuesday. The patient has asked his medical team to share photographs and an update to warn others about vaping.

The medical experts that performed the procedure called it “the first double lung transplant in the world for a patient whose lungs were irreparably damaged from vaping,” the health system said in a statement Monday.

“It would be nice if it’s the last — if the epidemic of acute lung injury can be brought under control,” said Dr. David Christiani at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

Christiani said he’s not sure if the number of double lung transplants due to vaping illnesses will increase. He said factors include the availability of donor lungs and the chronic effects of illnesses from vaping that could lead to other conditions.

More than 2,000 Americans who vape have gotten sick since March, many of them teenagers and young adults, and at least 40 have died.

“We’ve certainly seen people who are very sick with this,” said Dr. Denitza Blagev, a pulmonologist at Intermountain Health Care in Salt Lake City. “I’m not aware (of any other double lung transplants) and 100% certain none of the patients in our system have had a lung transplant from e-cigarette or vaping-associated lung injury.”

Christiani and Blagev were not involved in the Detroit transplant.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week announced a possible cause of the vaping illness outbreak, identifying the chemical compound vitamin E acetate as a “very strong culprit” after finding it in fluid taken from the lungs of 29 patients. Vitamin E acetate also had been found in liquid from electronic cigarettes and other vaping devices used by many who got sick and recently has been used as a vaping fluid thickener.

Many who got sick said they had vaped liquids that contain THC, the intoxicating element of marijuana, and many said they received them from friends or bought them on the black market.

E-cigarettes and other vaping devices heat a liquid into an inhalable vapor. Most products contained nicotine, but THC vaping has been growing more common.

Some states have enacted bans or are considering bans on some vaping products.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker issued an emergency ban on vaping products in September in response to the lung illnesses.

In Michigan, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in September ordered issuance of emergency rules banning flavored electronic cigarettes after her chief medical executive found that youth vaping is a public health emergency. Whitmer has accused the makers of using candy flavors and deceptive ads to hook children.

But a Michigan Court of Claims judge issued a preliminary injunction in October, blocking the state’s ban.

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