A boy in India complaining of stomachache was found to be carrying a dead fetus. What was initially suspected to be caused by a tumor, doctors were surprised to see a nearly fully formed baby inside the boy's abdomen.

The boy, who hailed from a village in West Bengal, complained of severe stomach pain and was subsequently admitted to a hospital. Doctors thought the pain was caused by a tumor but were proven wrong by the patient's CAT scan results.

"The dead embryo which had hands, legs, nails and a partially formed head was removed from the child's body after a long operation," said Dr. Shirshendu Giri, one of doctors in charge of the patient. Surgery was performed to remove the fetus after diagnosis. Giri said that the patient is currently stable but is still under observation for possible complications.

The patient was afflicted with a rare condition called fetus in fetu, literally meaning "baby within a baby" and can occur in one out of every 500 to 600,000 people.

During pregnancy with twins, one of the fetuses can end up being absorbed into the other via the umbilical cord. The absorbed twin then becomes a parasite, and while it usually does not survive outside the womb, it can still pose as a major threat to the surviving baby.

Just last February, a Chinese baby was born with two fetuses in her abdomen and had to undergo surgery to remove them. The baby girl reportedly made a full recovery after surgery.  

"Since it is impossible for the little girl to have conceived the pregnancy on her own, the fertilization of the twin fetuses, of course, belongs to her parents, which has gone to the wrong place," said OB-Gyne specialist Dr. Yu Kai-man.

A school-aged girl, also from China, was reported by the BMJ Case Reports to have sprouted a third arm with two fingers connected to a shoulder blade and a breast on her back. These parts were later found to belong to her identical twin who was absorbed while in vitro after said twin failed to develop. Last June 1999, a man from India, Sanju Bhagat, underwent surgery to remove his parasitic twin after carrying it for 36 years.

Researchers have so far identified fetus in fetu as a benign condition but with the potential to become malignant. Recommendations for treatment include complete removal of the mass and its parts and evaluation for postoperative tumor markers.

Photo: Jason Wilson | Flickr 

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