Sunday 8 December 2019

Woman (24) died from 25cm hairball in intestines

Coroner Dr Myra Cullinane returned a narrative verdict.
Coroner Dr Myra Cullinane returned a narrative verdict.

Louise Roseingrave

A woman died of complications arising from a hairball that extended more than 25cm from her stomach into her intestines, an inquest heard.

Surgery was recommended for Karen Carroll (24) from Portland Square, North Circular Road, Dublin 1, in 2009 but this did not happen and she died five years later.

The hairball, known medically as trichobezoar, is associated with a rare condition called Rapunzel Syndrome which results from the ingestion of hair.

Ms Carroll, who worked as a supervisor at Debenhams, did not proceed with planned surgery to remove the mass of hair but continued to live a full life, Dublin Coroner's Court heard.

Towards the end of 2014 she became unwell and experienced dramatic weight loss. She presented at the Mater Hospital on February 13, 2015, complaining of abdominal pain. She was described as thin, malnourished and disorientated and had lost up to four stone in two months.


Ms Carroll was admitted to the Mater Private Hospital that day suffering from dehydration. Tests showed a hairball extending from her stomach into the second section of her intestine with a diameter ranging between 6.2cm and 10cm. The first section alone, the duodenum, measured between 25cm and 38cm. She was treated with nutritional supplements and the painkiller Tramadol.

On the morning of February 17, she complained of hiccups, nausea, abdominal pain and tenderness. She collapsed on the ward later that day.

Emergency surgery was performed to remove the hairball and doctors found the mass of hair had fractured and moved further into the small bowel.

Ms Carroll remained in a critical condition afterwards and died on February 19. Cause of death was septic shock due to bronchial pneumonia, due to gastric obstruction secondary to trichobezoar.

Pathologist Dr Niall Mulligan said she developed pneumonia two to three days before she died. The hairball was affecting her ability to breathe, the court heard.

Consultant in Emergency Medicine at the Mater Private Hospital, Dr Gerard O'Connor, said this was only the second such case he had experienced.

Planned surgery to remove the hairball in 2009 was postponed for six weeks initially because Ms Carroll was taking an oral contraceptive. She did not return to hospital to proceed with surgery, the court heard.

Coroner Dr Myra Cullinane returned a narrative verdict.

Irish Independent

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