Conference Coverage

Guidance defines vaping-related respiratory syndrome



– Knowledge of vaping devices, familiarity with terminology, and the ability to quickly pinpoint individuals at risk of lung injury are just a few skills that can help critical care professionals confronted with patients who may have vaping-associated lung disease, according to a new guidance document.

Dr. Craig M. Lilly, professor of medicine, anesthesiology, and surgery at the University of Massachusetts, Worcester Andrew D. Bowser/MDedge News

Dr. Craig M. Lilly

The guidance offers a risk-stratification system that classifies patients into groups based on exposure, symptoms, and imaging results, and provides specific evaluation needs and management strategies for each. The guidance is designed to help critical care professionals efficiently identify those at high risk of respiratory failure.

Physicians also need to communicate with patients to identify what substances are being vaped and develop effective methods to encourage abstinence, according to the authors, led by Craig M. Lilly, MD, FCCP, professor of medicine, anesthesiology, and surgery at the University of Massachusetts, Worcester.

“I would encourage every intensivist, when they leave their intensive care unit at night, [to ask], ‘have I advised against vaping today?’ ” Dr. Lilly said at the Critical Care Congress sponsored by the Society of Critical Care Medicine.

The guidelines, concurrently published as a review article in Critical Care Explorations, propose the term vaping-associated respiratory distress syndrome (VARDS), which the authors say constitutes an acute and progressive respiratory syndrome marked by pathologic changes of lung injury and potentially life-threatening hypoxemic respiratory failure.

They also introduce the three-group Worcester classification system, which is intended to triage vaping-exposed individuals for risk of VARDS based on the presence or absence of vaping-related symptoms and infiltrates, and normal or abnormal oxygen saturation.

“It’s very simple,” said Dr. Lilly, who added that the risk stratification model was developed at the request of Massachusetts public health officials.

Patients with vaping exposure but no symptoms attributable to vaping, such as cough, chest pain, or weight loss, are classified as Worcester Low Risk and testing is not recommended, he said.

By contrast, individuals are considered Worcester Medium Risk if they have vaping exposure, symptoms, and a vaping-associated abnormal pattern on imaging, but no hypoxemia; the presence of hypoxemia would tip the scale toward Worcester High Risk.

“Most patients that have died from vaping have been sent out of emergency rooms when they were noted to be hypoxic,” Dr. Lilly told meeting attendees.


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