Rapunzel syndrome

Doctors in Erbil remove nearly one kilogram of hair from woman’s stomach

ERBIL — In a crucial medical intervention, doctors in Erbil removed nearly one kilogram of hair from a 28-year-old woman’s stomach on Tuesday, addressing a rare condition known as Rapunzel syndrome.

The surgery was conducted at a local hospital under the leadership of Dr. Dilshad Hamed Chomani, a specialist in general surgery. Dr. Chomani told 964media that the patient had presented with severe symptoms before Eid Al-Adha after ingesting a large amount of hair. Medical examinations showed her stomach and intestines were obstructed by a massive hairball.

“The surgery was necessary due to the critical and life-threatening condition,” said Dr. Chomani.

The patient, a resident of Erbil, had developed a 920-gram hairball in her gastrointestinal tract over time due to her habit of consuming hair. This condition, Rapunzel syndrome, occurs when ingested hair forms a hairball in the stomach that extends into the intestines, causing an obstruction.

Rapunzel syndrome is a rare and extreme form of trichophagia or the compulsive eating of hair, which is itself a specific presentation of the broader psychological condition known as trichotillomania, where individuals feel compelled to pull out their hair. The syndrome is most frequently observed in young women and girls, typically starting around the age of 18, often as a response to stress, anxiety, or other psychological distress. Left untreated, Rapunzel syndrome can lead to severe complications, including gastrointestinal blockages via the formation of a trichobezoar that can lead to perforations, peritonitis, and even death.

Dr. Chomani highlighted the rarity of this condition, noting, “Such cases are rare, with only one occurrence reported in the Kurdistan region every five years and infrequently worldwide.”

Globally, Rapunzel syndrome is exceedingly rare, with only a handful of cases documented in medical literature each year. There have been fewer than 100 cases documented worldwide since it was first described in 1968.

The medical team involved in the life-saving procedure included Dr. Hunar Abdulrahman, Dr. Ahmad Falestini, Dr. Hogr, Farman Taha, and Haji Sami. Following her surgery, the patient has been referred to a psychiatrist for further evaluation and ongoing monitoring to address her underlying psychological issues.

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