Ayperi Alekseeva, 18, came close to death because she couldn’t eat or drink – but doctors were shocked when they found the cause
Doctors treating a teenage girl who had become unable to drink water without being sick were shocked to excavate a gigantic nine-pound hairball from inside her stomach.
Ayperi Alekseeva, 18, from Kyrgyzstan, suffered months of dehydration and malnourishment because she couldn’t eat or drink, and came close to death.
But when doctors in the capital city of Bishkek cut open her stomach, they found a giant mass formed from years of eating her own hair and hair picked up from the floor.
Professor Bahadir Bebezov, senior professor of surgery at Bishkek Hospital, said: “By the time we got her she could not even drink water. We realised we needed to operate immediately.
“It was actually the only alternative – nothing else would solve the problem. In fact her stomach was so badly swollen from hair and bits of wool from the carpet that it literally just oozed out soon as the wall of the stomach was cut.
He said he had never heard of such a large hairball, even after searching 50 years of medical records.
Yet Ms Alekseeva’s hairball – which scientists call a ‘trichobezoar’ – is not the first nor even the largest ever dug out of a human body.
In 2012, Indian doctors found a 4lb (1.8 kilo) mass of hair and chalk stuck between the stomach and small intestine of a 19-year-old student.
Five years earlier, the New England Journal of Medicine used its Thanksgiving issue to highlight the jolly case of a “large bezoar” – weighing 10lbs (4.5 kilos) and 15 inches long – “occluding nearly the entire stomach” of an 18-year-old American woman.
The compulsive eating of hair is called Trichophagia, and if left unchecked it can even develop into Rapunzel Syndrome, in which a hairball develops a ‘tail’ which trails down into the lower intestine.
Ms Alekseeva will be go home with her parents at the end of the week, and has promised to stop chewing on her hair.