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.
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.
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.
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.
Full recovery is expected.
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.
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 that has a tendency to put items in the mouth.
Be sure to remove the child's access to fuzzy or fiber-filled materials.
Pfau PR, Ginsberg GG. Foreign bodies and bezoars. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger & Fordtran’s Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 8th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2006:chap 23.
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, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.