‘Similar To Blast Injury,’ Teen Suffers Injuries After Vaping Pen Explodes
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – An emergency surgery, that Dr. Katie Russell performed back in March 2018, was unlike any other she had encountered before, mainly because of the cause; a vaping pen.
“It blew out multiple teeth immediately, and then he got a jaw fracture,” Russell explained. “And then there was about a two and a half centimeter chunk that was missing, had gotten blown out, so it was a pretty substantial force.”
The case was unusual enough, that Russell, who is a pediatric surgeon at University of Utah Health, and Primary Children’s Medical Center recently had her experience published in The New England Medical Journal.
“At that point, I had no idea that vape pens could even do this,” Russell said. “We just want to educate people, and let them know that there is a possibility that these things explode, and cause major damage.”
Kailani Burton admits she allowed her son, Austin to have vape pen as a way to try and get him to stop smoking. It’s a decision she deeply regrets now. She says there were no signs there was anything wrong with the device.
“We heard a loud pop,” Burton recalled, explaining that her older son came running into the room. “And he said, ‘it blew up! It blew up!’ And I said, ‘what blew up?'”
Burton says her then 17-year-old son, was holding his mouth and groaning, unable to speak. She drove him to a nearby medical center, which then referred them to Primary Children’s.
Russell says over the past year and a half, Austin has had multiple reconstructive surgeries. He initially had his jaw wired shut, had a plate put in to stabilize the jaw, and had several teeth secured into place. He will still need at least one more procedure to replace teeth that were destroyed in the accident.
“We see jaw fractures like this after motor vehicle collisions, high-speed crashes. This was a huge force that broke this child’s jaw,” Russell said, explaining that the injury could have been much worse. “If the shrapnel of the vape pen goes internal instead of external, it can injure very important structures in your neck, and cause you to have no blood flow to your brain, and have a stroke and die.”
Russell believes Austin’s experience should serve as further proof that teens and adults should stay away from vaping as well as smoking.
“There is still a lot of scientific evidence that nicotine is not good for the developing brain,” Russell said. “This is a real problem in our adolescent and even pediatric patients, and I think we all need to work together to try to stop it.”
Burton says she’s changed her stance on vaping. She now warns others of the potential dangers, especially if she catches teenagers doing it.
“If I see them vaping, I’m like, ‘do you know what that could really do to you right there?’ And I do show them a picture of Austin, of the skull. And I show them the pictures of the hole in his mouth,” Burton said. “I just want people to know that it can hurt, and it can burn you, and it can explode.”