Hairball weighing 1.6 kg removed from teen's stomach

Feb 07, 2013, 08:02 IST | Naveen Nair

The 15-year-old girl had been eating hair since she was nine owing to a psychiatric disorder called trichotillomania; doctors said the condition urges the patient to pull out their hair and, sometimes, eat it

The parents of a teen were shocked to discover that their 15-year-old daughter was carrying around a ball of hair weighing 1.6 kg in her abdomen. Swati Somani, a Std IX student, was complaining of severe abdominal pain since a month ago. When none of the remedies worked, her parents finally took her to Seven Hills Hospital in Andheri.

The mass of hair, which had balled up in the teenager’s belly over six years, began giving her acute aches about a month ago

There, the doctors examined her abdomen and found that it was very stiff. They advised a sonography for diagnosing the problem. Shockingly, the reports revealed a huge mass that was occupying the entire abdominal space. To confirm the diagnosis, a CT scan was conducted, which showed a huge ball of hair that had accumulated over a period of time and taken the shape of the stomach.

On January 29, Swati was operated on at Seven Hills Hospital and the hair mass was removed. “We confirmed the diagnosis with a CT scan and proceeded for surgery. On opening the stomach, we found a huge mass of hair in the exact shape of the stomach,” said Dr Nitin Jain, laparoscopic and general surgeon, Seven Hills Hospital. “There was no space in the stomach for digestion. I removed the mass successfully through a small abdominal incision. This trichobezoar (hair mass) measured 21x12 cm in dimensions. Finding this big a mass of hair in the stomach is rare.”

The Somanis were shocked to know that their daughter, a topper in school, had a habit of eating her hair. Though they had seen her playing with her locks and holding strands of it between her teeth, they had no idea that she used to gulp them down. Swati had been plucking and ingesting her tresses since she was nine. Her parents realised this only when she started complaining about abdominal pain and a reduced appetite.

“My daughter was eating less. Whenever we asked her about it, she said that she wasn’t hungry. We did not pay much attention, as she was as active as other kids. We got worried only when she started complaining of abdominal aches and refused to eat,” said her father Navnath Somani.

According to doctors, Swati was suffering from a psychiatric disorder called trichotillomania, in which one feels the urge to pull out one’s own hair and, sometimes, munch on it and swallow it. “When we saw the hair mass, we were shocked. We had never heard of such a condition. I have another son and a daughter and they don’t suffer from any such disorder,” Somani added. Doctors have advised psychiatric counselling for Swati to help her kick the hair-eating habit. Her first appointment with a psychiatrist is scheduled for Saturday.

Hair scare
October 31, 2012: A 13-year-old girl from Kurla was operated upon at a private hospital after the hair mass in her stomach began obstructing her intestine. She suffered from severe abdominal pain and couldn’t pass stool for over four days. 

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