South African Medical Journal

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Rapunzel syndrome: A South African variety

J Plaskett, D Thomson, B Dedekind


Trichobezoars are intraluminal accretions of ingested hair. Rapunzel syndrome is a rare and extreme presentation, with the trichobezoar extending into the small intestine. It is most frequently reported in children and psychiatric patients. We report a South African series of 5 patients who presented with trichobezoars. Each patient was retrospectively reviewed and analysed with regard to background, demographics, clinical presentation, diagnosis, surgical management and complications. Five female patients with a median age of 19 (range 12 - 27) years presented with clinical symptoms, including early satiety, intermittent vomiting with gastric outlet obstruction, abdominal pain and weight loss. The diagnosis was made by endoscopy, abdominal computed tomography (CT) imaging, barium meal examination or plain abdominal radiography. Two patients presented with sealed/contained gastric perforations, and 1 patient with a smallbowel perforation. All 5 bezoars, 2 of which consisted entirely of artificial hair extensions, extended into the jejunum, the longest measuring 1.4 m. All were removed by laparotomy. While trichobezoars are a rare entity, they may present with significant complications, such as obstructions and perforations. In view of the infection risk and considerable size of many of these bezoars, an open removal is probably safer than any minimally invasive attempt.

S Afr Med J 2018;108(7):559-562.

AJOL African Journals Online