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UA trauma surgeon sees increase in e-cigarette burns in patients

Posted at 3:50 PM, May 05, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-05 20:12:43-04

A University of Arizona trauma surgeon is seeing a spike in e-cigarette burns in patients. 

Dr. Gary Vercruysse says he and his colleagues noticed about a year and a half ago emergency patients were coming in with severe burns after their e-cigarette caught on fire in their pocket.

Dr. Vercruysse and his colleagues decided to write a case report on lithium ion battery failures as the cause of the spontaneous explosions. 

"The problem with these e-cigarettes are that the battery will fail," he said. "It will fail one of three ways, either by heat so overheating the battery or electricity so by plugging it into the wrong charger or by mechanical failure where the battery is accidentally punctured by some sharp object in your pocket or just over time wear out."

He says lithium batteries have little to no regulation. 

When a battery fails, it will spontaneously combust and cause a fire nearly 500 degrees Fahrenheit, according to his case report. 

He says this has left some of his patients with severe burns that required skin grafting. 

Dr. Vercruysse advises users to not put an e-cigarette in their pocket, but rather use a lanyard to hold it so it can be taken off fast in the event of an emergency.