Clinical guidance update
The CDC provided detailed guidance on evaluating and caring for patients with EVALI. The recommendations focus on patient history, lab testing, criteria for hospitalization, and follow-up of these patients.
Detailed history of patients presenting with suspected EVALI is especially important for this patient population, given the many unknowns surrounding this condition. The updated guidance states, “All health care providers evaluating patients for EVALI should ask about the use of e-cigarette, or vaping, products and ideally should ask about types of substances used (e.g.,THC, cannabis [oil, dabs], nicotine, modified products or the addition of substances not intended by the manufacturer); product source, specific product brand and name; duration and frequency of use, time of last use; product delivery system, and method of use (aerosolization, dabbing, or dripping).” The approach recommended for soliciting accurate information is “empathetic, nonjudgmental” and, the guidelines say, patients should be questioned in private regarding sensitive information to assure confidentiality.
A respiratory virus panel is recommended for all suspected EVALI patients, although at this time, these tests cannot be used to distinguish EVALI from infectious etiologies. All patients should be considered for urine toxicology testing, including testing for THC.
Imaging guidance for suspected EVALI patients includes chest x-ray, with additional CT scan when the x-ray result does not correlate with clinical findings or to evaluate severe or worsening disease.
Recommended criteria for hospitalization of patients with suspected EVALI are those patients with decreased O2 saturation (less than 95%) on room air, are in respiratory distress, or have comorbidities that compromise pulmonary reserve. As of Oct. 8, 96% of patients with suspected EVALI reported to CDC have been hospitalized.
As for medical treatment of these patients, corticosteroids have been found helpful. The statement noted, “Among 140 cases reported nationally to CDC that received corticosteroids, 82% of patients improved
The natural progression of this injury is not known, however, and it is possible that patients might recover without corticosteroids. Given the unknown etiology of the disease and “because the diagnosis remains one of exclusion, aggressive empiric therapy with corticosteroids, antimicrobial, and antiviral therapy might be warranted for patients with severe illness. A range of corticosteroid doses, durations, and taper plans might be considered on a case-by-case basis.”
The report concludes with a strong recommendation that patients hospitalized with EVALI are followed closely with a visit 1-2 weeks after discharge and again with additional testing 1-2 months later. Health care providers are also advised to consult medical specialists, in particular pulmonologists, who can offer further evaluation, recommend empiric treatment, and review indications for bronchoscopy.
Mitch Zeller, JD, director, Center for Tobacco Products with the Food and Drug Administration emphasized the extraordinary complexity of the EVALI problem but noted that the FDA and CDC “will leave no stone unturned until we get to the bottom of it.”