A Dutch teenager had completely forgotten his native language after waking up from surgery and could only speak English, doctors have revealed.
The unidentified 17-year-old boy, believed to be from Maastricht, was in hospital for knee surgery after an injury during a football match.
But after he awoke from the anesthesia, he could not speak or understand any of the doctors who spoke in Dutch.
Instead, he could only speak in English—a language he’d only learned in school and never used outside of the classroom.
The boy also did not recognize his own parents and believed he was in the US, specifically Utah, a country he had never visited.
After 24 hours, the teen ‘spontaneously’ recovered both his ability to speak and understand his native language after friends came to visit him.
And doctors who treated him, at the Maastricht University Medical Center, claim that he has kept his native language ever since.
Scientists describing his case in a medical journal believe he has developed an extremely rare case of foreign language syndrome.
A Dutch teenager awoke from routine surgery and was unable to speak or understand his native language, instead speaking and understanding only English that he learned at school (file image of Dutch clogs)
The condition occurs when people suddenly forget to speak their native language and rely on a second language instead. This could be language they haven’t spoken for years.
Little is known about foreign language syndrome because it is so rare, with only eight cases reported in the scientific literature. Some attacks lasted for minutes, while others lasted for days.
The exact cause remains a mystery, but cases have been reported following surgery involving anesthesia or following a traumatic head injury.
And prior to the unnamed Dutch teen, none of these were in children, according to Dr. Husam Salamah and colleagues.
In the Journal of Medical Case Reports, the team wrote that the boy spoke perfect Dutch the morning of his surgery.
However, after recovering from his routine knee surgery, the boy spoke only English, couldn’t recognize his parents, and insisted he was in Utah.
Foreign Language Syndrome: What Do We Know?
With only eight cases recorded worldwide in the scientific literature, there are few details about foreign language syndrome.
How often is it?
Extremely rare, only eight postoperative cases have been recorded in the scientific literature since 1999.
Other studies have reported a total of 60 cases worldwide, sometimes due to a head injury.
In either case, given the millions of surgeries performed worldwide each year, as well as head injuries, the chances of developing the syndrome are infinitesimally small.
Although with so few cases it is unknown whether people are at greater risk than others.
What are some examples?
Other reported postoperative cases include:
A New Zealand man who woke up and spoke only Spanish, but recovered after an hour of sleep. An awake American man who spoke Norwegian for only five hours A Turkish man in the US who spoke only English for more than 24 hours after surgery
Another case reported in 2016 was that of an Italian man who could only speak French after a traumatic brain injury
How long does it take?
Some post-operative cases have resolved themselves in less than 30 minutes, while others have taken more than a day.
Other cases of brain injury are ongoing.
A nurse suspected the teen had delirium, a condition in which a patient is disoriented and confused upon waking from anesthesia.
However, after 18 hours, attempts to get the boy to speak Dutch were still unsuccessful, prompting the attending medics to request a psychiatric consultation.
When meeting the teenager, Mr Salamah said: ‘We found a relaxed, 17-year-old, well-groomed boy on the bed.
‘We shook hands at the greeting. He made adequate eye contact and was open to communication.
“His attention could be drawn and it was held well. During the interview he was able to answer questions, but only in English, with a Dutch accent.’
Some of the medics who treated the boy considered his ability to speak English fluently.
About six hours later, and a total of 24 hours after the operation, some of the boy’s friends came to visit him.
It was then that the teenager “spontaneously” began to understand and speak his native language again.
The next day, he told medics that he was aware that he could only speak and understand English, and also that he could not recognize his parents and believed he was in the US.
After a series of regular checkups in the weeks and months after surgery, the boy reported no problems speaking or understanding Dutch.
However, nearly a year after surgery, the patient has reported persistent problems with his memory, telling doctors that he couldn’t remember things as well as he did before his surgery.
But studies showed no signs of cognitive impairment, with medics theorizing that the now 18-year-old may have been “fixed” on regular forgetfulness.
Foreign language syndrome is separate from foreign accent syndrome, a similarly rare condition in which someone suddenly starts speaking with a different accent but keeps the same language, usually after a head injury or stroke.
Given the link between the foreign language syndrome and awakening from anesthesia, Mr Salamah said the condition could be linked in some way to the onset of delirium.
However, he stressed that since the condition is so rare, much is still unknown about its exact causes and much research remains to be done.
Source: | This article is originally from Dailymail.co.uk
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