A massive wad of hair that “had a tail” and weighed nearly five pounds was recently pulled from the stomach of a 6-year-old girl. On Friday, the Daily Mail described the hairball as a “revolting” clump with a tail that “was longer than most” 6-year-old girls are tall.
Medics at a hospital in India’s capital city of New Delhi were reportedly “astounded” when the “enormous” mass of hair was found in the Indian girl’s stomach. The Daily Mail reported that the girl’s “rare” case was published online in the medical journal called the BMJ, which was formerly known as the British Medical Journal.
According to the case report published by the BMJ about three weeks ago, only 90 other such cases have actually ever been reported on, citing just how “extremely rare” the girl’s condition was. The BMJ goes on to say that the 6-year-old girl complained of pain, bloating, and vomiting for up to four days before her parents took her to the emergency department at Safdarjung Hospital in New Delhi.
An article that was published by the Sun, also on Friday, shared that doctors at the large government hospital in India found and removed the 4.6-pound “clump of hair” that “had formed” in the girl’s stomach and was preventing food from passing through “her digestive system.” The Sun goes on to report that the irregularly-shaped hairball measured over four feet in length, which is at least eight inches longer than the average height of a 6-year-old girl, according to the previously-mentioned article in the Daily Mail.
The Daily Mail noted that the tail of the hair mass actually extended beyond the girl’s stomach and into her small intestine, obstructing her bowel — an extremely rare condition known as Rapunzel syndrome. The BMJ case report writes that the syndrome was named after the early 1800s Brothers Grimm fairy tale called “Rapunzel,” due to the length of the tail on the hairball.
The case report — that was “jokingly” named “A tail too long to tell!” — notes that Rapunzel syndrome is usually a result of patients eating their own hair. However, the parents of the 6-year-old girl said that she would only “play with her hair” in her mouth, which doctors assumed she had swallowed for many years based on the size of the hair mass and the fact that the hair on the girl’s head was “sparse.”
Rapunzel syndrome is reportedly seen most often in “young females,” according to the BMJ report, and is apparently usually associated with a psychiatric disorder like compulsive hair pulling. However, the Daily Mail reported that the 6-year-old Indian girl reportedly had no emotional or mental illness, even though her parents did admit that she did, in fact, pull out her hair and put her hair in her mouth since early childhood.
The hairball itself, not including the tail, “measured roughly” over four inches across by over six inches long, according to the Daily Mail article that also noted that swallowed hair accumulates in the gut because hair is not broken down and absorbed. The Sun reported that “growing tension” usually leads to hair pulling that results in a “sense of relief,” adding that hair can also be pulled from the eyelashes and eyebrows to achieve the same feeling of relief.
The Daily Mail writes that hairballs found in the stomachs of children are often a result of swallowing hair from hairbrushes and from the heads of dolls.
The 6-year-old girl from India was reportedly fully evaluated by a psychiatrist and released from the hospital after a seven-day stay following the surgical removal of the enormous and tangled hairball from her “grossly distended” stomach.