An elderly woman has been arrested on suspicion of keeping her now-adult son locked up since the age of 12.

Doctors at New Karolinska Hospital in Stockholm, Sweden alerted police after receiving a concerning new patient on Sunday who underwent emergency surgery.

The 41-year-old man, who had no teeth, could barely speak and had wounds all over his legs, had been brought in by ambulance after a female relative had discovered him in the dilapidated apartment he shared with his mother.

The relative told police she had suspected something strange was going on inside the home for years, and on Sunday her worst fears were confirmed when she finally went inside.

It now appears the man's 70-year-old mother had kept him locked up as a prisoner since he was a child.

It's believed the woman withdrew her son from school when he was in Year 7, and ever since the two had lived a completely solitary life separate from the world outside.

Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet reports the woman was "very overprotective" of her son due to a "previous event in the family".

Stockholm police have confirmed they are investigating an "illegal deprivation of liberty".

The woman has denied the charges and will soon appear in court. Police have yet to speak with the man.

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The anonymous female relative who discovered him says the 70-year-old woman had been taken to hospital over the weekend, so she went to visit the apartment.

"It can not have been cleaned in decades, it was like stepping straight into a horror movie," she told Expressen.

There she found the man sitting in a corner in the dark. He could barely answer her questions and could only stand with assistance, so she called an ambulance.

She claims to have suspected the woman was abusing or neglecting her son for many years, but her concerns were ignored by the rest of the family.

The victim has had no contact with anyone but his mother since the age of 12, having been brainwashed into thinking the outside world was evil, she said.

"The mother managed to manipulate society in all the years, it is terrible that he was deprived of his whole life," she said.

"The mother is guilty of this, but he has been let down by the whole society."

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