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Doctors Remove Huge Clump of Hair In Stomach Of 16-Year-Old Girl With Rapunzel Syndrome

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Doctors performed emergency surgery on a teenager who had been chewing on her own hair over the past 10 years. The girl suffers from a rare condition known as Rapunzel Syndrome.  ( Piron Guillaume | Unsplash )

Doctors in Russia have removed a huge clump of hair that accumulated in the stomach of a teenager with Rapunzel syndrome.

Hairball Removed From Teen's Stomach

The unnamed 16-year-old girl had been chewing her own hair over the past 10 years and these collected in her stomach.

Doctors removed the hairball weighing over 1 pound or about 454 grams during emergency surgery in the Siberian city of Tomsk.

Andrey Karakaev, the lead doctor of the operation at the Emergency Medicine Clinic Number Two clinic, said 80 percent of the girl's stomach was filled with the hairball.

Doctors had to perform an urgent surgery because the girl's gastrointestinal tract was already in danger of being completely blocked.

The girl is now recovering but doctors said she may require psychiatric care.

Rapunzel Syndrome

Rapunzel, the fictional character in the Brothers Grimm fairy tale, is known for her long hair that she lets down from a tower window.

Rapunzel syndrome, which is named after this tale, is a rare medical condition that occurs when a person has a hairball on the stomach and that hairball has a "tail" that extends into the intestines.

The condition is related to other conditions such as trichophagia and trichotillomania. People who compulsively swallow their hair have a psychiatric disorder trichophagia. People who have an irresistible urge to pull out their hair has trichotillomania.

Authors of a 2016 case report on the Rapunzel Syndrome wrote the condition afflicts mostly children and adolescents.

"Rapunzel syndrome is an extremely rare condition associated with trichophagia (hair eating disorder) secondary to a psychiatric illness called trichotillomania (hair-pulling behaviour). It is most commonly seen in children and adolescents," they wrote.

Hair Can Accumulate In The Stomach And Form Into A Clump

The stomach is unable to digest hair. Hair is neither biodegradable so these could accumulate in the stomach and form into a clump in people who habitually chew and swallow them.

This large mass of hair known as "trichobezoar" may cause nausea, vomiting and digestive problems. In some instances, it can cause a condition known as peritonitis, or inflammation of the lining of the abdomen, which can lead to body-wide inflammation that can cause the organs of the body to shut down.

Trichobezoar may cause an ulcer or open sore in the lining of the stomach. Once the ulcer perforates the stomach, bacteria from the hairball may spread into the abdominal cavity, which can cause infection and inflammation.

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