The Southwest UK Burns Network (SWUK) experience of electronic cigarette explosions and review of literature.
E-cigarette (EC) use has risen meteorically over the last decade. The majority of these devices are powered by re-chargeable lithium ion batteries, which can represent a fire hazard if damaged, over-heated, over-charged or stored inappropriately. There are currently no reports in the medical literature of lithium ion battery burns related to EC use and no guidance on the appropriate management of lithium ion battery associated injuries. We report two individual cases of burn resulting from explosion of EC re-chargeable lithium ion batteries. Both patients required in-patient surgical management. We provide evidence that lithium ion battery explosions can be associated with mixed thermal and alkali chemical burns, resulting from the significant discharge of thermal energy and the dispersal of corrosive lithium ion compounds. We would recommend, as with other elemental metal exposures, caution in exposing lithium ion battery burns to water irrigation. Early and thorough cleaning and debridement of such burns, to remove residual lithium contamination, may limit the risk of burn wound extension and potentially improve outcomes.