Lubbock doctors care for vaping patients

Updated: Nov. 21, 2019 at 9:34 PM CST
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - KCBD is working to understand vaping by taking a look at what’s in it and why people want more of it.

There are many people who vape with no ill effects, but as one Lubbock doctor told us, it is a gamble.

Health experts are working to find out what vaping can do to the body.

“I don’t think we’ll ever say it’s as bad as cigarette smoking, but who knows, because 70 years ago, people actually thought smoking was good for your lungs.” Dr. Victor Test is Chief of the Pulmonary and critical care division at the Texas Tech Health Sciences Center. He says time has turned up a mountain of evidence to prove cigarette smoking can be deadly. Now, he is concerned that time could turn against vaping as well. “Hopefully we won’t be 50 years down the road and hoping we’d acted sooner.”

Dr. Victor Test
Dr. Victor Test(KCBD)

As the vaping epidemic sweeps the nation, more than 2,000 hospital patients are revealing lung damage linked to vaping and Lubbock is on that list.

Dr. Test says, “At University Medical Center, I know of three cases that we felt were likely vaping related lung injury in young people who were otherwise quite healthy.”

Dr Gilbert Berdine adds, “And when they present to the hospital they are significantly hypoxic, low oxygen saturations and the chest x-rays are abnormal.”

Dr. Gilbert Berdine showed KCBD a CT scan of a chest x-ray from a vaper who came to UMC with extreme shortness of breath. He says, “Here is his Cat Scan at the time of admission on the left and here is an essentially normal cat scan.” Dr. Berdine explains the black area is basically air and that’s good. But, the vaper’s lungs are filled with fluid, somewhat like the cloud that vaping produces.

Dr. Gilbert Berdine
Dr. Gilbert Berdine(KCBD)

Dr. Test says it is ironic that the vaping cloud is so much bigger than the smoke produced from a cigarette."You watch someone exhale a cloud of vapor, it is astounding at the volume and the size of the cloud that emanates from them when they exhale."

Read more: More than just vapor: Doctors weigh in on vaping THC vs. Nicotine

There are even blogs with tips on how to make your vape cloud bigger. In the Cath lab, Dr. Test explains what that cloud could mean to the heart since vaping includes a significant amount of nicotine, “The effects of nicotine on cardiovascular system are well documented. It increases heart rate. It increases blood pressure, both systolic and diastolic. It can cause constriction of the blood vessels.”

But, it is the lung injury that we are hearing more about right now. He says the odds are not good, “Acute lung injury has a mortality of about 30 percent. Thirty percent is a pretty high risk to take. It is a gamble that people take. There have been deaths associated with vaping.”

Most agree there will be more illnesses and deaths from vaping until people can be convinced of the danger. Dr. Test says nothing belongs in our lungs except air, adding, “How long did it take us to figure out that smoking is bad?”

The CDC says there have now been 2,290 cases of vaping related lung injury in 49 states with at least 47 deaths. Sadly, all that is preventable. Dr. Test says we just need to remember that our lungs are made for one thing only, and that’s air.

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