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February 19, 2021

UK Girl Compulsively Ate Her Hair & Needed Surgery after Hairball Tore through Her Stomach

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A teenager in the UK suffering from "Rapunzel syndrome" that causes her to eat her hair is forced to undergo surgery after a massive hairball tore through her stomach. 

According to a report published in the journal BMJ Case Reports earlier this month, a 17-year-old girl in the UK who compulsively ate her hair had to be hospitalized after developing a massive hairball that tore through her stomach walls. 

The concerned teen first reported at the hospital after she mysteriously fainted twice, which led to her sustaining bruises to her scalp and face during the falls. 

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After ruling out a head injury as the cause of her fainting episodes, doctors noticed a weird swelling in the woman's upper abdomen during an examination. 

The teen revealed she had experienced intermittent abdominal pain over the past five months which had worsened in the weeks leading up to her hospitalization.

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Following a computed tomography (CT) scan, it was discovered that there was a large mass inside her grossly distended stomach. The scan also revealed a tear along the stomach. 

The discovery brought new information about the woman's mental health struggles to light, which includes trichotillomania — an urge to pull out one's hair, as well as trichophagia — the compulsive eating of hair.

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The teen was subsequently diagnosed with Rapunzel syndrome which occurs when a hairball in the stomach (trichobezoar) extends into the intestine. 

[T]he abdomen of a young Michigan woman, Gina Arnold, was sliced in half by her seat belt following a horrible car crash in October 2017.

Thankfully, doctors were able to surgically remove the massive hairball which measured 19 inches and had formed a perfect cast on her entire stomach. Also, her doctors were able to repair the tear on her stomach. 

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Following her procedure, she received psychiatric treatment in the hospital while recuperating from the surgery. After seven days, she finally returned home, and she is believed to be progressing well with strict dietary advice. 

Rapunzel syndrome is a rare disorder, and only 64 cases have been reported since 1968. While the occurrence is low, hairballs of this magnitude have mostly led to the patient's death.

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An excellent example of such a case was a 16-year-old girl from the UK who passed away from Rapunzel syndrome after the massive hairball triggered a fatal infection. 

In another bizarre case, the abdomen of a young Michigan woman, Gina Arnold, was sliced in half by her seat belt following a horrible car crash in October 2017.

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The injuries were nothing like her doctors had ever come across and left Arnold with no abdominal wall. Even after several reconstructive surgeries, Arnold only has a semblance of everyday life. 

For the teenager suffering from Rapunzel syndrome, there is still much hope of a return to normalcy with therapy treatment already in full swing.

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