A Brazilian woman has experienced an unexpected side effect of voluntary cosmetic surgery - a few days after being released from the procedure, she began to suffer from irresistible compulsions to steal, followed by a sense of relief after doing so. In other words, she'd developed all the trademark symptoms of a kleptomaniac.
The healthy 40-year-old went into surgery for liposuction, a breast augmentation, a tummy tuck, and an arm lift, and doctors have now reported that at some point during the procedure the blood flow to her brain appears to have become restricted, causing temporary damage to the region of the brain that helps to regulate impulse control.
On paper, the surgery itself went well, but as soon as the woman woke up, her doctors suspected something was wrong - she was forgetful, lethargic, and apathetic.
Two types of brain scans revealed that the patient had suffered what's known as a hypoxic-ischaemic brain injury, which basically means that parts of her brain had become damaged due to a temporary lack of oxygen, either during or directly after the surgery.
Prior to this incident, the woman had no history of substance abuse or mental health issues, researchers describe in the British Medical Journal Case Reports.
Although the report doesn't conclude how the lack of oxygen occurred, lead author Fábio Nascimento told Quartz it was most likely the result of a common surgical technique called deliberate hypotension, which is used to artificially lower a patient's blood pressure and reduce bleeding. It's usually safe, but in this case it appears to have not gone as planned.
"Given that the brain has high energy demands … we believe that this deliberate hypotension resulted in inadequate blood flow to her brain," Nascimento explained.
One brain region in particular that was affected was the patient's caudate nucleus, which is involved in memory and learning, and could have triggered the strange behaviour that followed her release.
Shortly after being sent home from hospital, the researchers explain that the Brazilian woman experienced "recurring intrusive thoughts and an irresistible compulsion towards stealing as well as feeling relieved after the act". Or "fairly typical symptoms of kleptomania", as Nascimento told Live Science.
One day she was shopping for a gift for a friend of her daughter, when she had the irresistible urge to steal an item, despite being more than capable of affording to buy it. She was caught stashing the item in her purse and leaving the shop with it, and taken to the police station.
It was only after her doctors explained her temporary psychiatric condition to the police that she was released, Nascimento says.
Thankfully, the kleptomania only lasted a couple of weeks, and subsided without treatment. Over that time, the brain was able to heal itself and 'rewire' following the injury, Nascimento told Live Science.
This isn't the only time surgery has been known to trigger psychological side effects, but if you're about to go under the knife yourself, don't worry, these are usually restricted to temporary memory problems and disorientation.
The medical literature has only reported one other case of kleptomania occurring for the first time after hypoxic-ischaemic injury, and in the majority of cases like this, the brain is more than capable of healing itself over time without any additional treatment.