A baby girl born with a parasitic twin inside her stomach has left doctors at the Assuta Medical Center in Ashod, Israel, shocked and baffled.
Neonatology doctor Omer Globus said that they first noticed the bizarre case during the mother's ultrasound late in the pregnancy because the fetus presented an unusual enlargement of the stomach. Upon the baby's birth, doctors conducted more tests to confirm their suspicions that this was a rare case of "fetus-in-fetu" (fetus within fetus).
The parasitic twin was only a partially-developed embryo with a heart and some bones, but the doctors stressed that the fetus was not fully formed. They successfully removed two formations on her stomach, but the baby is expected to recover well from the surgery as she and her mother are now safely at home.
Super Rare Anomaly
Described as a "super rare anomaly," Dr. Neeraj Desai of the Orlando Health Winnie Palmer Hospital said that parents shouldn't worry that their baby could be born with a parasitic twin. Speaking with Today, Dr. Desai, who was not part of the treating team in Israel, said that only a few doctors in the world have experience with fetus-in-fetu as it is estimated to occur in just one of every 500,000 births.
Desai further explained that experts previously thought a fetus-in-fetu is a form of a cyst or teratoma stem cell with human tissues like bones or hair. However, most of these formations are benign, and no one knows precisely why such a rare instance happens.
The doctor said that pregnant women develop teratoma inside their ovaries which "may start growing in the wrong place" and turn into a messy "hodgepodge of different tissues." But a fetus within a fetus is quite a specialized formation that looks like a human baby.
Globus said their case in Israel likely happened as the cavities during the fetal development process closed, and one of the embryos remained in that space. They thought there was more inside the baby's stomach, but the formation hardly looked like an actual human embryo as the operation revealed.
Other Cases of Fetus-in-Fetu
In the past years, doctors also discovered a parasitic twin in a child in her toddler years in Colombia. There has been a case of a 17-year-old girl in India with a parasitic twin after she complained of a lump for five years.
In Saudi Arabia, doctors also did an operation in early July to remove a Yemeni baby's parasitic twin. The procedure took eight stages to complete and lasted nine hours. The newborn, named Aisha, has been recovering successfully and has reunited with her mother. However, she will be monitored in the hospital for at least ten weeks.
Doctors said that Aisha was born with a parasitic twin that had an extra pelvis and an extra set of what looked like lower extremities. The experts who operated on the baby said that surgeries like this are not life-threatening. Aisha's parents were also able to watch everything via live stream.
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