The 17-year-old traveled 250 miles with a bloody mouth, broken teeth and a hole in his jaw, trekking from a small town in Nevada to a pediatric hospital in Utah with his mother. There, doctors rushed him into surgery, working to reconstruct and repair shattered bone.
What he told doctors shocked them: The boy was vaping when, without warning, his e-cigarette exploded in his face. The freak accident, described in a case study published Wednesday, is just one of thousands in recent years.
“People need to know before they buy these devices that there’s a possibility they’re going to blow up in your pocket, in your face,” said Dr. Katie Russell, the trauma medical director at Primary Children’s Hospital who first treated the boy.
It’s unclear what type of e-cigarette was involved in the incident.
Thousands of explosions and fires
One study published in 2018 estimated that more than 2,000 e-cigarette explosion and burn injuries sent users to US hospital emergency departments from 2015 to 2017. But few are aware of just how serious the incidents can be.
The teen from Nevada said he had no idea his vape could explode, according to Russell. He repeated the line over and over again in the emergency room, she remembers, and he was still “pretty freaked out” hours after the explosion.
“At that time, in my career, I had never seen this. I never heard of this as a possibility” said Russell, who described the boy’s injuries in the New England Journal of Medicine.
“I just wanted to get this out there so other people could know that this was possible,” she added.
The boy Russell treated was “a tough kid,” she said, and he healed well. But others have been less fortunate.