On Tuesday, Michigan doctors announced that they have successfully performed the first double-lung transplant on a 17-year-old male whose lungs were destroyed due to vaping.
The doctors from Henry Ford Hospital, Detroit, said the patient had to undergo the transplant surgery for nearly six hours on October 15. They said he was on a life-support machine for a month after suffering “complete lung failure.” The medical team said he would have faced “certain death” if the surgery was not performed.
Describing him as an athlete, the patient’s family said he was in perfect health before he was taken to the hospital in early September. At that time, he was appeared to have pneumonia. However, within weeks, his condition started deteriorating and he was soon on the top of the national transplant list.
The doctors said they were shocked when they first examined him. Dr. Hassan Nemeh, surgical director of the hospital, said, “What I saw in his lungs was nothing that I’ve ever seen before, and I’ve been doing lung transplants for 20 years.”
“There was an enormous amount of inflammation and scarring in addition to multiple spots of dead tissue,” he added. “And the lung itself was so firm and scarred, literally we had to deliver it out of the chest. This is an evil that I haven’t faced before.”
This special operation emphasized the complexity of the ongoing vaping epidemic across the United States. So far, vaping-related lung injury affected more than 2,000 people and killed 39 people.
Dr. Nemeh said, “This is a preventable tragedy. This senseless type of product needs to be fought.”
The doctors, including Dr. Nemeh, who were involved in the surgery, did not disclose whether he was using vaping products containing THC or nicotine, citing the privacy of his family.
Health officials say that vaping products containing THC, a psychoactive substance found in marijuana, is linked to the most number of cases they have examined.
The doctors explained that the teen’s long-term prognosis is not clear as of now. They said the survival rate for people receiving a double-lung transplant is about 7 years; however, the rate may go up to 15 to 20 years in some patients. Dr. Lisa Allenspach, Medical Director of Henry Ford’s lung transplant program, said, “We’re hopeful that given his youth and progress that happens in the future that he will be alive and well for a long time.”