1.5 m-long rope of hair in stomach

The stomach pain stayed with her for four years, undiagnosed, and leaving doctors confused.

She was found to be suffering from Rapunzel syndrome, scientifically known as Trichophagia, a rare condition found only in 30 cases worldwide till 2010. A CT scan of her abdomen showed that there was a 1.5-metre-long rope of hair in her intestines.

Fourteen-year-old Sukanya (name changed), a Faridabad resident, had been plucking and eating her own hair since a very young age.

Dr N K Pandey of Asian Institute of Medical Sciences in Faridabad, where Sukanya was operated upon, said, “Patients with this syndrome have a tendency to pluck off their hair and swallow them, resulting in a giant hair ball in their gut, which can lead to intense pain and other complications.”

In fact, it is children who are more prone to be found with Trichobezoar (ball of hair in stomach). Given the rarity of this case and lack of information, it is difficult to diagnose such cases, said Pandey.

Sukanya’s mother said she would fiddle with her hair since the age of three, but they never suspected that she was swallowing it.

According to Dr Prabal Roy, senior consultant at the hospital, Trichobezoar has the potential of turning life threatening if not removed on time.

“She had eaten so much shair that the 1.5-metre rope of hair occupied her entire stomach and extended into her intestines, causing internal obstruction. The hair was found to be cutting through the bowel wall which could have caused a perforation and cost her life,” Roy said.

She is currently undergoing psychological counselling following the surgery that removed the rope of hair.

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