Surgical site infections, post-operative pain, blood clots – these are all common complications after surgery. But what about kleptomania?
According to a case study, published in the BMJ, this was a reality for one patient.
A 40-year-old woman in Brazil had an elective plastic surgery procedure. With no history of mental illness or substance abuse, it surprised her doctors when she reported she was “experiencing recurring intrusive thoughts and an irresistible compulsion towards stealing as well as feeling relieved after the act.” An MRI and cerebral perfusion scintigraphy revealed she most likely had “inadequate blood flow to the brain” during or after the procedure, which temporarily damaged the brain.
Thankfully for the woman, this was a temporary condition as her brain was able to heal itself in a couple of weeks.
Cases like hers seem to be rare, but, when it does happen, the circumstances seem similar. For instance, a 2014 case study included a 55-year-old man who had a cardiac arrest secondary to ventricular fibrillation. After ten minutes of no cardiac output, cardiac defibrillation restored his circulation. Eight weeks later, he was transferred to the facility which submitted this report published in Advances in Clinical Neuroscience & Rehabilitation:
On admission to our ward the general physical examination of the patient was entirely normal. On neurological examination there was no focal neurological deficit. The bedside assessment confirmed that the patient was orientated in time, place and person.
His mood appeared normal. However, there was evidence of mild to moderately severe cognitive impairment, as summarised below. A CT head scan was normal. A full blood count, renal and liver function tests were also within the normal range. Cardiac investigations confirmed significant stenosis of the coronary arteries.
The patient’s behaviour on the ward was normal except that he repeatedly stole objects from the dining room and from the bedside lockers of other patients and hid them. The objects included cutlery, cleaning products, television remote control sets, etc. When asked by the ward staff to return the stolen items he often apologised and gave them back explaining that he only took “things that other people no longer needed”. However, on other occasions he denied the theft.