Glucocorticoid Drugs Appear Effective At Treating Vaping Lung Injuries In Youths: Study

The findings of a new study suggests many individuals suffering from vaping lung disease may be effectively treated by taking steroids, which may provide guidance to medical providers looking to address the continuing outbreak, which has resulted in thousands of hospitalizations and dozens of deaths over the past year.

E-cigarette or vaping lung injury (EVALI) disease began to emerge in mid-2019, when doctors reported seeing a surge in patients, mostly teenagers and young adults, who were experiencing severe and potentially life-threatening respiratory problems after vaping.

The illnesses were first reported in Illinois and Wisconsin, and have since been linked to THC containing vaping products and products containing vitamin E acetate additives.

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Recent estimates suggest that at least 60 deaths may be attributed to EVALI, and more than 3,000 individuals have been hospitalized nationwide. However, the true impact of the problems may be under-reported in recent months, since symptoms of the vaping lung injury may be similar to COVID-19.

In a study published in the July issue of the journal Pediatrics, researchers from Texas indicate that glucocorticoids helped treat 11 out of 12 patients who were affected by EVALI.

Researchers focused on a small group of 13 hospitalized teens who were diagnosed with confirmed or probable EVALI. A multidisciplinary committee developed an EVALI algorithm based on guidelines by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Overall, nearly 70% presented with respiratory symptoms and more than 85% suffered from gastrointestinal symptoms. More than 90% of patients reported using THC containing vape products while 62% of patients used e-cigarette products containing nicotine.

According to the findings, all patients had bilateral ground-glass opacities in the lungs found using chest computed tomography (CT) scans. However, treatment with glucocorticoids, a class of steroids, led to clinical improvement in 11 of 12 patients.

Patients experienced improved forced expiratory volume in one second, a measure of the ability to expel air from the lungs. This is a significant improvement considering the patients all experienced diminished or impaired respiratory function.

Forced vital capacity was also improved. This is a measure of lung function and can help doctors diagnose various lung diseases, including EVALI.

“Diagnosis of EVALI should be suspected on the basis of vaping history and clinical presentation,” wrote study authors. “Glucocorticoid treatment led to an improvement in symptoms and lung function.”

The researchers called for further evaluation of glucocorticoids as a treatment for many teenagers and young adults affected by vaping lung injuries.

Recently health officials called for stronger warnings to inform teens about the link between vaping THC products and lung injury risks, including EVALI. A recent study indicated more than 220 different brand names of THC containing e-cigarettes were linked to cases of recent vaping lung injury illnesses.

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