Sick Woman Had Two Giant Hairballs In Her Stomach

Image: iStock

A 38 year old woman just had two giant hairballs removed from her stomach. Not one hairball. Two hairballs. Hairballs plural.

The extremely rare (only 88 people have ever had it) condition is called Rapunzel syndrome, and means the body of the hairball lies in the stomach, with its tail extending to the intestines. Its tail.

The condition is associated with trichotillomania, where patients have an irresistible urge to pull out one's hair, and trichophagia, the compulsive eating of hair. It's named after the long-haired girl named Rapunzel, in Grimm brothers' fairy tale.

The woman had nausea, sudden vomiting and constipation, and had an enlarged abdomen due to accumulating gas and fluids. She vomited everything that she tried to eat, had an unintentional weight loss of 15 pounds over the last 8 months, and significant loss of appetite for the last 12 months. She looked tired and had an unhealthy pale appearance. She was not well.

A number of tests were inconclusive as to the cause, and additional tests could not be performed due to the patient's worsening condition.

Doctors decided to operate, and surgery revealed a 15x10 cm hairball in the stomach with a small tail in the first part of the intestines, and a separate mass of hairball measuring 4×3 cm in the third portion of the intestines.

Two hairballs. With tails.

Both hairballs were removed and she was sent home after 6 days, with ongoing support from a psychiatrist and nutritionist. Rapunzel condition is most commonly seen in children and adolescents, and is associated with an underlying psychiatric disorder.

[BMJ]

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