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Bezoar
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Bezoar

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Trichobezoar; Hairball

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.

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  • Causes

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

  • Symptoms

    • Indigestion
    • Stomach upset or distress
    • Nausea
    • Vomiting
    • Diarrhea
    • Pain
    • Gastric ulcers
  • Exams and Tests

    The child may have a lump in the abdomen that can be felt by the health care provider. A barium swallow x-ray will show the mass in the stomach. Sometimes a scope is used (endoscopy) to directly view 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.

  • Outlook (Prognosis)

    Full recovery is expected.

  • Possible Complications

    Persistent vomiting can lead to dehydration.

  • When to Contact a Medical Professional

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

  • Prevention

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

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

Related Information

  Dehydration    

References

Kelsen J, Liacouras CA. Foreign bodies and bezoars. In: Kliegman RM, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, Stanton BF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 19th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 326.

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Review Date: 8/22/2013  

Reviewed By: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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