E-cigarette or vaping product use-associated lung injury: A review for pathologists

Matthew J. Cecchini, Sanjay Mukhopadhyay, Andrea V. Arrossi, Mary B. Beasley, Yasmeen M. Butt, Kirk D. Jones, Stefan Pambuccian, Mitra Mehrad, Sara E. Monaco, Anjali Saqi, Maxwell L. Smith, Henry D. Tazelaar, Brandon T. Larsen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Context. - Vaping is the inhalation of heated aerosol from a small battery-powered device as a method to deliver nicotine or other substances. A recent outbreak of severe respiratory illness primarily in the United States has put a spotlight on vaping and its potential risks. Objective. - To familiarize pathologists with vaping, the cytologic and histopathologic features of vaping-associated acute lung injury, and the role of pathology in this diagnosis. Data Sources. - A targeted literature review was performed. Conclusions. - Most cases of vaping-associated lung injury have been linked to vaping products containing tetrahydrocannabinol or other cannabinoids. Lung biopsies show a spectrum of nonspecific acute lung injury patterns (organizing pneumonia, diffuse alveolar damage, acute fibrinous, and organizing pneumonia, or combinations of the above), accompanied by prominent, foamy macrophage accumulation. Injury is usually accentuated around small airways. Lipid-laden macrophages can be identified in bronchioloalveolar lavage fluid in most patients and these can be highlighted using lipid stains, such as oil red O, but the clinical utility of this finding remains unclear, as lipid-laden macrophages can be seen in a wide variety of processes and should not be relied upon to make the diagnosis. Classic histologic features of exogenous lipoid pneumonia have not been identified in tissue samples. Lightly pigmented macrophages, similar to those seen with traditional cigarette smoking, are present in some cases but are usually a minor feature. To date, no specific pathologic features for vaping-related injury have been identified, and it remains a diagnosis of exclusion that requires clinicopathologic correlation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1490-1500
Number of pages11
JournalArchives of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Medical Laboratory Technology


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