E-cigarette burns: Management of a growing phenomenon

Dr Derek Liang1, Dr Charles Meares1, Dr Aruna Wijewardena1, Dr Vincent Choi1, Dr John Vandervord1

1Royal North Shore Hospital, St Leonards, Australia


Introduction: Since its introduction, e-cigarette use has increased in popularity over the last decade. E-cigarettes work via a lithium powered battery which heats up to vapourise a liquid that the user inhales. Burn injuries secondary to e-cigarette use are now presenting to our burns unit and may become more common with its increasing popularity. The mechanism of e-cigarette burns are multiple: contact burn from overheating of the lithium battery, flame and/or chemical burn from the exploding lithium battery and e-cigarette liquid. Due to its complex burn mechanism, it can be difficult even for an experienced burn surgeon to achieve a satisfactory outcome.

Case series: This is a case series of 2 patients who have presented to Royal North Shore Hospital in 2019 for e-cigarette related burns. First case is of a 64-year old female with a 1% TBSA full thickness contact burn to her right posterior thigh from the e-cigarette overheating in her pocket, which required debridement and skin grafting. Second case is of a 61-year old male with a 3% TBSA full thickness burn from his e-cigarette lithium ion battery exploding, which required debridement and grafting.

Conclusion: Whilst e-cigarette burns are usually minor in terms of burn size, the depth of burn can be significant due to their mixed mechanism. Given it’s increasing popularity, it is important to raise awareness about the prevention and ideal management of e-cigarette burns.


Dr Derek Liang is currently a Burn’s Registrar at Royal North Shore Hospital.

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