(KUTV) — A teenage boy was left with a broken mouth, a hole in his chin and damaged teeth after an electronic cigarette exploded in his mouth.
Austin, 17, arrived at the Primary Children's Hospital hours after the e-cigarette burst inside his mouth, according to a case study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
His jaw was swollen and he complained of pain in his mouth.
Doctors discovered the boy suffered a punctured chin and cuts across his mouth. Several of the boy's teeth were damaged and his lower jaw was fractured. Medical staff removed some of his teeth and damaged tissue. They also constructed a wire used to heal the fracture and stuck it in his mouth.
"That's an injury we see in high-speed motor vehicle crashes, " Dr. Katie Russell, a pediatric trauma surgeon at the University of Utah and Primary Children's Hospital, told The Washington Post. "At that point, we had no idea that vape pens could cause such a substantial injury. It takes a serious amount of force to break your jaw and to break it in the way that he did."
At the six-week check-up, staff said the boy was recovering well and they removed the wire.
Austin's mother, Kailani Burton, told The Post that the vape pen was supposed to improve her son's life. He has asked for one in 2018, hoping it would help him quit smoking. Burton said Austin reassured her that the e-cigarette was safe and that he had done his research about vaping. After buying the device, Burton could't shake one fear: what if the vape pen explodes?
One month after Austin started vaping, Burton and her husband heard a loud pop inside their home.
"He was screaming, 'It blew up! It blew up!," Burton told The Post.
She then handed Austin a towel, bundled him into the car and drove him to the hospital in their hometown of Ely, Nevada, a small city about 240 miles north of Las Vegas.
The hospital, however, wasn't equipped to handle the injury, so Burton and Austin were forced to drive over 200 miles to Primary Children's Hospital in Salt Lake City.
Dr. Michah G. Katz and Russell treated the boy and detailed his condition in the case study. "The increasing prevalence of vaping among adolescents is a public health concern."
According to the Center fr Disease Control, e-cigarettes have become extremely popular since they entered the U.S. marketplace in 2007. The percentage of high school student who used e-cigarettes in the past 30 days has sky-rocketed from 1.5% in 2001 (222,000) to 20.8% in 2018 (3.05 million).
The Food and Drug Administration encourages anyone who has encountered an explosion, or any unexpected health or safety issue with a device to report.