- An unnamed 17-year-old in Detroit recently became the first person to need a double-lung transplant due to a vaping-related lung injury.
- The case, while frightening, is a rare last-resort treatment for vaping-related lung injuries, Dr. John Scott, a pulmonologist and director of the Mayo Clinic’s transplant centre, told Insider.
- Most vaping injuries can be treated with antibiotics, steroids, respiratory ventilators that help a person breath, or a mixture of these methods, Scott said. Lung transplants are a last resort.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more.
An unnamed 17-year-old in Detroit recently became the first person to need a double-lung transplant due to a vaping-related lung injury.
On November 12, representatives at Henry Ford Health System in Detroit held a press conference about the teen’s condition, surgery, and long road to recovery.
“This teenager faced imminent death had he not received a lung transplant,” Dr. Hassan Nemeh, surgical director of thoracic organ transplant at Henry Ford Health System and one of the doctors who performed the procedure, said in a release.
The case, while frightening, is a rare last-resort treatment for vaping-related lung injuries, Dr. John Scott, a pulmonologist and director of the Mayo Clinic’s transplant centre, told Insider.
The teen’s case illustrates a worst-case scenario
Of the hundreds of hospitalizations due to vaping-related lung injuries, the Detroit-based teen is the first to need a double-lung transplant because most of the cases, while life-threatening, can be treated with antibiotics, steroids, respiratory ventilators that help a person breathe, or a mixture of these methods, Scott said.
Only when these other treatments fail is a lung transplant considered.
Double-lung transplants are better options than single-lung transplants for infection-type diseases
Not everyone who needs lung replacement will undergo a double-lung transplant because they may only need one new lung, according to Scott, but double-lung transplants are still more common than single-lung transplants.
To determine if a patient will get a single or double transplant, doctors look at a variety of factors, including the conditions a person has, whether both lungs are injured and to what extent, and if there’s a possibility one lung could infect the other if only one is replaced, Scott said.
According to the American Society of Transplantation, single-lung transplants are typically used to treat emphysema, pulmonary fibrosis, sarcoidosis, and high blood pressure in the lungs.
Meanwhile, double-lung transplants – which usually involve getting both lungs from the same donor, a person who has died and donated their organs – are best for people with infections or high blood pressure. That’s because high blood pressure can cause an influx of blood to the new lung, overwhelming the lung “before it has a chance to get settled and working fully,” Scott said.
As a result, the excess blood flow can injure the single new lung soon after surgery, undoing some of the benefits of the single-lung transplant. With double-lung transplants, that’s not a problem.
Age matters too when considering a single or double transplant. Teens are typically in good health and more medically resilient than older people, so they’re ideal candidates for a six- to eight-hour double-lung transplant procedure, Scott said.
But a single-lung transplant may be considered for a patient who needs a shorter surgery time to decrease their risk of infection, like an elderly person or someone prone to infections.
Some patients wait years for new lungs
If doctors deem a person eligible for a lung transplant of any kind, they will be added to a waitlist, according to the Mayo Clinic. Since the number of people who need lung transplants is much higher than the number of lungs available, it can takes months or even years before a person is matched with new lungs.
People on a waitlist for a double-lung transplant may wait longer than people waiting for single-lung transplants, but according to the National Institutes of Health, people who get singles tend to reappear on the waitlist soon after for a second single-lung transplant.
Double-lung replacements typically have faster recovery times
While the actual procedure is longer, double-lung replacements typically have faster recovery times than single lung transplants.
Still, it’s not an easy road to recovery. Doctors said the Michigan teen’s healing will be a “long, intense process.” His parents asked the hospital share his story as a warning to other teenage vape users.
“This is a preventable tragedy,” Nemeh said in the release. “And we have so much respect for this family for allowing us to share their pain to prevent the same from happening to others. The damage that these vapes do to people’s lungs is irreversible. Please think of that – and tell your children to think of that.”
- Read more:
- The wild history of vaping, from a 1927 ‘electric vaporizer’ to today’s mysterious lung injury crisis
- Banning legitimate vaping is ‘absolute madness’
- Vaping for only a month can cause lung inflammation, even if you’ve never smoked before
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.