The 20-year-old, from India, suffers with a rare case of Rapunzel syndrome which sees her ingest her own hair – before it becomes trapped and tangled in her digestive system.
She needed an urgent operation to remove the giant hairball which was causing persistent vomiting and recurring stomach pain.
Surgeon Dr Bharat Kamath said: “On examination, a hard lump was felt in the upper abdomen of the patient. “A CT scan showed a huge mass of hair, taking the shape of the stomach, extending through the duodenum into the upper small intestines.”
The doctor said the patient was undergoing a psychiatric evaluation for the condition trichotillomania, which is characterised by an urge to pull out and eat hair.
The oval hairball, removed following the surgery at V C Gandhi & M A Vora Municipal General Hospital in Mumbai, was 25cm long and around 12cm wide. Dr Bharat said that following the surgery on August 31, the patient is now recovering.
He added: “This is the first time such a case has been handled in our hospital, though there have been isolated cases elsewhere. Small hairballs are very common; they do not require surgery and can be removed by an endoscopic procedure.
However, when it becomes a huge cast of mass taking the shape of the stomach, there remains little space for any equipment to go inside. Such patients can’t hold their food and vomit it all out which leads to anorexia; they are restless all the time, they don’t eat and that’s how their hemoglobin count drops.”