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"To commemorate National Hairball Awareness Day, the museum featured a display of 10 of these hairballs"
March 25, 2012 8:26 PM   Subscribe

Hairballs: Myths and Realities behind some Medical Curiosities (possibly NSFLunch)

Besides being a badass Scrabble word bezoars are known to many Harry Potter readers as the thing you get from a goat's stomach that you can use as a poison antidote, or Buffy watchers as a prehistoric parasite that can attach themselves to humans and control them. Bezoars can be caused by a number of things. The word actually comes from Persian (padzahr) and means "to expel poison" but many people have thought this claim was merely apocryphal. Surprisingly, bezoars actually have been shown to be able to remove arsenic from liquids and extend the survival time of (mouse) snakebite victims.
posted by jessamyn (51 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
Bah! Hairball!!
posted by not_on_display at 8:27 PM on March 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was all "Fascinating!" until I got to the human surgery photos at the end. *urp...*
posted by Decimask at 8:40 PM on March 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


does "possibly NSFL" mean not safe for lunch?
posted by goutytophus at 8:42 PM on March 25, 2012


Yes L = Lunch! Should I spell it out more, that it might be gross for people who are eating?
posted by jessamyn at 8:44 PM on March 25, 2012


Okay so I was so horrified yet intrigued by the last image in the first link that I went on a surgical extraction of trichobezoar Google hunt. I only lasted a few minutes before I started feeling queasy but this is what I found:

'Rapunzel syndrome' trichobezoar in a 7-year-old girl: a case report

HUGE trichobezoar

Perforated gastric trichobezoar: A Case Report

A giant trichobezoar causing rapunzel syndrome in a 12-year-old female
posted by MaryDellamorte at 8:45 PM on March 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


If I remember correctly, there was an episode of House where the culprit behind a man's unexplained symptoms turned out to be a bezoar largely composed of drugs he had taken in various clinical trials earlier. When the bezoar began to dissolve, he started getting some freaky-ass symptoms from the drugs and their interactions.

In Sandman, a bezoar is the going price for a captured Muse.
posted by The Confessor at 8:45 PM on March 25, 2012


Yes please! I thought "not safe for losers" at first, tbh.
posted by kenko at 8:45 PM on March 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was fine with it all until I got to the last line of photos. GAH!
posted by msjen at 8:46 PM on March 25, 2012


I thought it meant Not Suitable for Life!
posted by tamitang at 8:46 PM on March 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


EW!

*stares in horrified fascination*

EWWW!

*reads some more*

etc.
posted by gusandrews at 8:50 PM on March 25, 2012 [5 favorites]


A bezoar kicks off the plot in the Sandman story about the imprisoned muse and the struggling writer.
posted by The Whelk at 8:50 PM on March 25, 2012


Okay I made the warning more explicit. I actually saw the bezoar in the exhibit before they closed down Walter Reed Medical Center.
posted by jessamyn at 8:51 PM on March 25, 2012


Wow! That giant trichobezoar is show being "delivered".

Even more satisfying than those bot fly extractions on youtube.
posted by bonobothegreat at 8:53 PM on March 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


Jess....I used to trust you...those days are over.
posted by HuronBob at 8:53 PM on March 25, 2012


Yeah that last lot of photos ... feel a bit queasy now.
.
.
.
Right, that's it. I'm off for a haircut.
posted by awfurby at 8:55 PM on March 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


I eagerly await Jessamyn's next post about tonsil stones. Or perhaps the particular gunk that forms under your toenails and has that distinctive odor when you clip your nails.
posted by Curious Artificer at 8:58 PM on March 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


I thought you meant "Not Safe For Life" but lunch makes sense, too.

We have had a post about tonsolliths on the Blue in past years. The horror is etched indelibly into my brain. Though, ha ha, I don't have any tonsils so I am clear of that danger!

jessamyn, I am sure you must have been to the Mutter Museum.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:02 PM on March 25, 2012


Also, this post made me happy because it reminds me of a dear friend who died many years ago, the dad of one of my closest friends, who was a doc and who used to save up articles about Weird, Gross Things from NEMJ and JAMA because he knew I would squeal with him in horrified fascination (unlike his wife and daughter--both docs themselves!--who just thought this stuff was gross).

If John could have known that an Internet post about repulsive hairballs made me remember him fondly, he would have laughed and laughed.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:08 PM on March 25, 2012 [9 favorites]


"trichobezoars extend beyond the stomach into the bowel (a condition known as Rapunzel syndrome). Often they are difficult to diagnose, but some symptoms include cramps, bloating, loss of appetite, weight loss, and bad breath. "

Well, that's ruined fairy tales for me. And I don't even want to imagine what kind of bad breath they're talking about.
posted by maudlin at 9:10 PM on March 25, 2012


Well, I've spent the last 20 minutes looking at clinical images on the NEJM site. The mods owe me an economy pack of barf bags.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 9:26 PM on March 25, 2012


maudlin: "trichobezoars extend beyond the stomach into the bowel (a condition known as Rapunzel syndrome). Often they are difficult to diagnose, but some symptoms include cramps, bloating, loss of appetite, weight loss, and bad breath."

Well, I've been eating less recently, and my stomach was hurting the other day, and my girlfriend has said my breath smells latel....OH GOD!!
posted by Defenestrator at 9:29 PM on March 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


The mods owe me an economy pack of barf bags.

Send me your address! And no I have not (yet) been to the Mutter Museum.

And apologies to those who were grossed out before I updated the warning but I love this post and I love the weird hairballs and I love the history of the bizzarro things that may or may not have been able to get arsenic out of your drink and I love that our national museum of health and medicine has this online exhibit. I only wish I had been able to find out more about National Hairball Awareness Day which seems to be a real thing but whether it's just a pet company promo machine, I do not know. I do know that if you search the Congressional Record for the word hairball, you get one hit and this "holiday" is not it.

The world is full of marvelous mysteries, and yes some of them are gross.
posted by jessamyn at 9:49 PM on March 25, 2012 [8 favorites]


Oh, then I do recommend the Mutter Museum for jessamyn and everyone who was at least as fascinated by this post as they were grossed out by it.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:56 PM on March 25, 2012


If anyone does plan on visiting the Mutter Museum (it's pretty awesome) try and go on a weekday. Weekends get so busy that it's hard to navigate around and see everything because there isn't a whole lot of space to begin with.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 10:02 PM on March 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sounds like it's time for a Metafilter Mutter Museum Meetup!

I'm down.
posted by gingerbeer at 10:17 PM on March 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


The world is full of marvelous mysteries, and yes some of them are gross.

Gross and awesome! I used to work at a daycare, and I was universally known as the teacher who was into icky stuff. Kids would come galloping up all excited, saying "Nibbly! Nibbly! I found something GROSS!" and I would run over to see their weird bug or half-worm. I wasn't just humoring them, either. So this is just the sort of thing I like reading about.
posted by Nibbly Fang at 10:20 PM on March 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Rapunzel, Rapunzel. Let down your ..."

*ROOUURKE *
posted by benzenedream at 10:59 PM on March 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


Now just pause for a moment, let your mind run free, and imagine the smell...
posted by bystander at 11:39 PM on March 25, 2012


AAAAGH. Following MaryDellamorte's sterling example, I Googled "phytobezoar" (because I know not to chew my hair, but I do tend to swallow the peels and seeds and things) and got the most horrifying BMJ Case Reports abstract ever.
posted by gingerest at 12:24 AM on March 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


Very interesting. My dog once intentionally produced something quite like that when he accidentally swallowed a sewing needle. Oh, and I'd like to recommend rather infrequently updated but nevertheless brilliant and scientifically accurate blog aptly named Body Horrors. I hope the warning would be superfluous at the moment.
posted by hat_eater at 4:11 AM on March 26, 2012


Just clicked on jessamyn.

Interesting.

She looks normal.
posted by notreally at 4:50 AM on March 26, 2012


And no I have not (yet) been to the Mutter Museum.

You would enjoy it, I think, based on the contents of this post. Lots and lots of stuff that treads the line between freakshow artifact and medical curiosity.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 6:28 AM on March 26, 2012


The Mütter Museum is one of my most favorite places in the world.
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:48 AM on March 26, 2012


gingerest, you are not kidding. That is like !!!!!!! on a scale where The Human Centipede is !!.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:04 AM on March 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


The hairballs are interesting, and remind me of Hill Street Blues. One of the characters called perps "hairball." The surgical picture showing the shape of the hairball in the gut was also interesting, and the surgery pics are not super-graphic. Better than pictures of any kind of bugs, which squick me out quite a bit.

Must plan a trip to DC to go to that museum.

thanks for posting.
posted by theora55 at 8:44 AM on March 26, 2012


WHY CAN'T I STOP LOOKING?!
posted by OsoMeaty at 10:19 AM on March 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Fun fact: Nazi doctor Josef Mengele, who performed horrific medical experiments on twins, pregnant women and children, among others, at Auschwitz had a habit of chewing on his mustache; the resultant bezoar eventually required surgical removal.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:13 AM on March 26, 2012


Gingerest, that abstract has stayed with me all. Day. Long. I'll be tinkering with something here at work and then suddenly JUMPED OUT AAAAAAA I have a flashback. My hat is off to you. (The better to hork in?)

It's also off to the surgeons. I admire their coolness under a particular kind of pressure (IT JUMPED OUT AAAAAAA) that one hopes does not occur very often.
posted by theatro at 12:01 PM on March 26, 2012


Jessamyn, have you been to the Museum of Jurassic Technology?
posted by Violet Hour at 1:44 PM on March 26, 2012


Halloween Jack, the hunt for Mengele's bezoar...what evil powers would it give you?
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:17 PM on March 26, 2012


Jessamyn, have you been to the Museum of Jurassic Technology?

I have not, but I've been to the international museum of surgical science.
posted by jessamyn at 3:19 PM on March 26, 2012


Aw, a sweet little isopod! He's not an insect! He's a mini, uh, bowel lobster.
posted by Sallyfur at 3:26 PM on March 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


BOWEL AND LOBSTER ARE NOT ALLOWED IN THE SAME SENTENCE.
posted by theatro at 3:51 PM on March 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


To those who are finding all this interesting, may I recommend The Sterile Eye, a blog (in English) by a Norwegian medical photographer?
posted by ocherdraco at 9:27 PM on March 26, 2012


On reflection, I'm impressed that an isopod could survive in what must have been an anaerobic environment. Also I really wish my institution had a subscription to that journal so I could read the rest of the article.
posted by gingerest at 9:27 PM on March 26, 2012


Mmmm, a happy isopod luxuriating in a bowel compost heap like a movie star in a fur coat.
posted by benzenedream at 5:19 PM on March 27, 2012


Oh, lord, forgive me:

MetaFilter: a happy isopod luxuriating in a bowel compost heap like a movie star in a fur coat.

posted by ocherdraco at 7:30 PM on March 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Why "most notably persimmons"? Are they particularly indigestible?
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 11:03 AM on March 28, 2012


That is what I was wondering!!
posted by jessamyn at 11:24 AM on March 28, 2012


Persimmons are a perfect storm of acid, pectin (soluble fibre) and peel (insoluble fibre). Perhaps this is the source of their superpowers.

Here is an article about treatment of phytobezoars, with the advice that snorting coke helps to fix the problem. (Okay, gastric lavage with cola beverage, using a nasal tube).

It mentions that persimmon bezoars are harder than other phytobezoars. It also uses this great word: esophagogastroduodenoscopy.

Another cola bezoar treatment article here.
posted by Sallyfur at 3:03 PM on March 28, 2012


snorting coke helps to fix the problem. (Okay, gastric lavage with cola beverage, using a nasal tube). (Sallyfur)

:D
posted by ocherdraco at 6:26 PM on March 28, 2012


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