His condition resembles something called "popcorn lung", which gets its name because workers at a microwave popcorn factory developed the illness from inhaling diacetyl, the chemical used to make butter flavoring. This particular case may be the first documented instance of "popcorn lung" from vaping, according to a report published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.
"[He was] extremely critical," Karen Bosma, MD, lead author of the report and a critical care physician at the London Health Sciences Centre in Ontario, Canada, told CBS News of the patient. "He was on life support and we were concerned that he might not survive."
"We also did CT scans and that gives us a deeper look at the lungs," Dr. Bosma continued. "That showed that he had a diffuse pattern. So if you picture the branches of a tree in the springtime when a tree is budding, that is what we are seeing on these images of the CT scan and that's a pattern that is in keeping with damage."
In the U.S., most vaping-related cases involve damage to the air sacs that allow oxygen to pass through the lungs, called the alveoli. But these scans didn't appear to look like any of the 2,000 vaping-related cases in the U.S. While there were similarities, a different part of the lung was affected. The teen's lungs revealed signs of damage to tiny air passages called bronchioles, something the doctors believe indicate chemical damage.
The patient, who had been vaping heavily for five months, was admitted to the hospital for 47 days. He has been discharged, and doctors say he may never regain full lung function.
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