Conference Coverage

Guidance defines vaping-related respiratory syndrome



Louella B. Amos, MD, a pediatric pulmonologist at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, said she expects the guidance and risk stratification system will be useful not only for critical care specialists, but for other health care providers as well.

“It’s important to make decisions relatively quickly, depending on the severity of symptoms, and I think this is nice and simple,” Dr. Amos said in an interview.

“We always triage when we see patients, either at the door or in our clinic, or behind that, even in the hospital,” she said. “So I think this can be a great tool for everybody, not only the intensivist, but people who are triaging at the front.”

Management of individuals at low risk of VARDS begins with encouragement of abstinence. “We think that every vaping patient should be advised to quit vaping,” Dr. Lilly said. Patients who are interested in quitting who have not yet worked with someone in their health care team whom they trust can be referred to their primary care physicians for counseling, he added, while those struggling with addiction, unable to quit, and unable to partner with a primary care physician can be referred to an addiction medicine specialist.

For moderate-risk patients, vaping cessation is “absolutely mandatory,” said Dr. Lilly, who recommended monitoring of vaping abstinence, outpatient evaluation based on imaging studies, and adequate follow-up to ensure symptoms resolve, tests normalize, and daily activities bounce back to baseline levels.

The guidance offers more extensive recommendations for the VARDS high-risk group, including supervised vaping abstinence, continuous pulse oximetry, and early intervention with noninvasive ventilation, and mechanical ventilation if required, Dr. Lilly said.

Judging vaping exposure is challenging, requiring clinicians to have a familiarity with the many different devices that are available.

Beyond device type, he added, it’s important to know the various terms for devices and lingo that patients may use to describe them, what solutions are vaped, whether those solutions are commercially prepared or off the street, the dose the device delivers, and a number of other factors, he said.

Clinical evaluation typically comes down to unexplained cough, chest pain, weight loss, fatigue, or dyspnea, though one other clue is whether there are gastrointestinal symptoms: “The same way that aerosols can go down to the lungs, they also go into the GI tract, and when nausea, vomiting, or cramping abdominal pain is tightly associated with vaping exposure, one should assume that the patient has been toxin exposed,” he explained.

Dr. Lilly said he had no financial relationships to disclose.


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