A seven-year-old girl has had these giant balls of hair removed from her stomach over the course of multiple operations, including, one that lasted a staggering 12 hours.
Seven-year-old ‘Chen Chen’, from Xiaoshan District in Hangzhou, the capital of East China’s Zhejiang Province, was first diagnosed with the problem in August 2018 after she was taking to hospital complaining of severe stomach pains.
Medics said she suffered from the psychological disorder known as ‘pica’, for which there is as yet no known cause, and which manifests itself mainly in young children who are often found eating non-nutritive and hard-to-digest substances such as hair, paper, metal, stones and even glass.
Doctor Chen Jinlong, head of gastroenterology at Zhejiang Xiaoshan Hospital, removed large bundles of hair from the girl’s stomach in two minimally invasive endoscopies lasting a combined 20 hours.
The first procedure took place in December, when, in an eight-hour gastroscopy, the medic pulled a 15-inch-long tangle of hair from her digestive system.
On 22nd January, Chen Chen underwent her second procedure, allowing Doctor Chen to remove all remaining balls of her own hair in 12 hours.
The medic said: “She has pica; all of this hair she swallowed by herself.”
Chen said he decided to treat the girl in two sessions in order to give her body time to recover between procedures.
He added: “The removal of the bundles of hair endoscopically was not only a first for our hospital, it is also very rarely done in the country.”
While there is no known cause of pica, Chen believes the psychological disorder may have been triggered by the birth of her younger sibling.
He said: “I believe it’s to do with Chen Chen’s parents having a second child.
“I saw them on the street once and noticed a toddler in their arms, while Chen Chen followed at a distance behind them.
“She may have felt neglected, leading to her needing to feed herself. She might’ve begun eating her own hair then, and it became a habit.”
Chen Chen is not the only girl in China with pica who was recently treated using so-called ‘keyhole’ surgery.
A nine-year-old in Changsha, capital of Central China’s Hunan Province, underwent a laparoscopy after doctors found a similar mass of hair in her stomach, which she had swallowed herself over time.