Bezoar

Alternative names
Trichobezoar; Hairball

Definition
A bezoar is a ball of swallowed foreign material (usually hair or fiber) that collects in the stomach and fails to pass through the intestines.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors
Chewing on or eating hair or fuzzy materials (or indigestible materials such as plastic bags) can lead to the formation of a bezoar. The incidence is very low and the risk is greater among mentally retarded or emotionally disturbed children. Generally bezoars are seen in females (approximately 90%) aged 10 to 19.

Symptoms

     
  • indigestion  
  • stomach upset or distress  
  • nausea  
  • vomiting  
  • diarrhea  
  • pain  
  • gastric ulcers

Signs and tests
The child may have a lump in the abdomen (stomach) that can be felt by the health care provider. A barium swallow X-ray will show the mass in the stomach, sometimes a scope if used (endoscopy) to directly visualize the bezoar.

Treatment
The bezoar may need to be surgically removed (especially trichobezoars which tend to be large). Sometimes small bezoars can be removed through a scope placed through the mouth and into the stomach (similar to an EGD procedure). Then, follow the prevention measures described.

Expectations (prognosis)

Full recovery is expected.

Complications
Persistent vomiting can lead to dehydration.

Calling your health care provider
Call your health care provider if you suspect your child has a bezoar.

Prevention
If your child has had a bezoar in the past, trim the child’s hair short so he or she cannot put the ends in the mouth. Keep indigestable materials away from a child that has a tendency to put items in the mouth.

Be sure to remove the child’s access to fuzzy or fiber-filled materials.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 3, 2012
by Gevorg A. Poghosian, Ph.D.

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All ArmMed Media material is provided for information only and is neither advice nor a substitute for proper medical care. Consult a qualified healthcare professional who understands your particular history for individual concerns.