In a rare surgery conducted at the Sri Ramachandra Medical Centre in Chennai on Wednesday, doctors removed a tuft of hair from a teenage girl's stomach. The clump of hair was so big that it was occupying most of her stomach.
The 13-year-old girl, who was mentally challenged, had been admitted to the hospital with complaints of reduced food intake and loss of weight for years, and gross loss of appetite for the past ten days.
An endoscopy found that the girl had hair accumulated in her stomach.
Surgeons who performed on her extracted hair that was approximately 250 ml, out of the total size of 300 ml with hardly 50 ml available for water or food intake.
"Eating oneâ€™s own hair is a habit of psychiatric patients which over the years can lead to formation of a big mass or tuft of hair inside the stomach (Trichobezoar) causing problems necessitating surgical removal," Dr Prakash Agarwal, HOD, Paediatric Surgery, Sri Ramachandra University and Hospitals, said.
The girl was diagnosed with trichophagia, a condition in which a person compulsively eats their own hair, and also trichotillomania, where the person pulls out their own hair.
Dr Prakash told The New Indian Express that the girl had been eating her own hair for years. "She had cerebral palsy and from the amount of hair that we removed, it was obvious that she had been eating her own hair for years, but the parents had no idea at all."
In a statement released by the hospital, he added that cutting the hair short or even tonsuring could help in preventing the problem. "Tonsuring or cutting the hair very short in psychiatric patients and giving proper medications by a psychiatrist will prevent this problem, failing which they can suffer serious problems."
Meanwhile, the patient is recovering and will be discharged soon.
Earlier this year, doctors removed a massive clump of hair, weighing 1 kg, from a 15-year-old girl's stomach in Punjab.
This girl too had a history of trichotillomania and trichophagia and was diagnosed with what is called a "Rapunzel Syndrome", a condition where hair is found in the digestive tract of an individual after he/she swallowed it, the Daily Mail reported.
The syndrome is so rare that less than 120 such cases have been reported in medical literature, and according to doctors, it mostly affects young women, the report added.