Girl With Rapunzel Syndrome Ends Up Needing Surgery

Teen had 19-inch-long hairball that burst through her stomach
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 21, 2021 7:01 AM CST
Hairball Wreaks Havoc on Girl With Rapunzel Syndrome
Developing such a hairball is a rare condition.   (Getty Images/ipopba)

A teen with two rare conditions ended up in the hospital after passing out twice, and she left one huge hairball lighter. Live Science reports on the case out of the UK, where a 17-year-old girl showed up at the hospital after her fainting spells, her face and head bruised from the resulting falls. Per a case study documented in BMJ Case Reports, the teen also mentioned she'd had stomach pains off and on for five months, and that they'd gotten worse over the past two weeks. A CT scan showed the patient had a "grossly distended stomach," as well as a rip in the stomach wall—the result of a trichobezoar (i.e., a giant hairball) that was 19 inches long and had burst through. When doctors operated on her to remove it, they discovered the hair mass was so big that it "formed a cast of the entire stomach."

It turns out the girl suffered jointly from trichotillomania, a hair-pulling disorder that affects between 0.5% and 3% of people, and trichophagia, which involves eating one's hair (between 10% and 30% of those with the former condition also have the latter). Not that having those conditions meant the girl had been destined for the ER—only 1% of people with both end up like this teen, with hair tangled and trapped in the intestinal tract, an even rarer, sometimes fatal condition called Rapunzel syndrome. The girl left the hospital a week after the procedure, and the study authors describe her recovery as "uneventful": A month later, she was said to be "progressing well with dietary advice" and attending sessions with a psychologist, and there've been no signs of complications. (More hairball stories.)

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