Czech doctors save girl, she swallowed her own hair

Rapunzel syndrome first appeared in 1968 and consists of chewing and swallowing one’s own human hair.

A Czech hospital announced today that its surgeons removed a skein of hair the size of a pint glass from the stomach of a girl who, suffering from Rapunzel syndrome, compulsively pulled out and swallowed her hair.

The 11-year-old girl suffers from this unusual syndrome, first recorded in 1968 and of which, until now, only a few dozen cases have been documented worldwide.

The disease owes its name to the long-haired girl who stars in a tale by the Grimm brothers.

“The disease is related to what we call trichotillomania and trichophagia, which is hair pulling and swallowing,” said Matus Peteja, chief surgeon at Opava hospital in the eastern Czech Republic.

The health officer specified that this syndrome affected, above all, girls and young women under 20 years of age.

The thick cylindrical ball of fur, 20 cm long and 8 cm in diameter, was too large to be removed through the mouth, so doctors had to remove it from the patient via laparoscopy.

«If we had not removed it, the girl would have been in pain and would have been losing weight progressively. In an extreme case, this could have damaged the stomach walls and perforated them,” Peteja explained to AFP.

The surgeon added that the young woman is well and that she will undergo psychiatric and psychological treatment.