Doctors discovered a 40-year-old fetus inside an elderly woman after she went to the doctor complaining of abdominal pain.
When an 82-year-old Colombian woman presented to a hospital with stomach pains on Monday, doctors made a chilling discovery about what was causing her discomfort. She had been carrying a calcified fetus for the past 40 years.
Originally doctors at Bogota’s Tunjuelito Hospital thought that the woman was suffering from gastro-enteritis – a form of diarrhea.
“An 82-year-old patient who arrived at emergency services on December 8 with diarrhea and in the medical exam the medic who was looking over (the patient) noted something abnormal in her abdomen and ordered an exam thinking that perhaps it was gallstones.
“An ultrasound was done and it wasn’t positive. Then, an abdominal radiography was ordered which located a tumor in the abdominal cavity which concluded that it was a fetus in the woman’s abdomen,” said Dr. Kemer Ramirez at Bogota’s Tunjuelito Hospital.
An x-ray image shows a foetus inside a woman in normal circumstances developing into a baby waiting to be born.
As the Telegraph reports, such a phenomenon is called lithopaedian, also known as stone baby. It is a rare syndrome with fewer than 300 cases reported in medical literature, which can occur when the foetus implants outside the uterus. If the baby becomes too large to be absorbed back into the body, it undergoes a process of mummification, with barriers of calcium protecting the mother from the decaying foetus.
After the discovery, the woman was transferred to another hospital, where she will undergo surgery to remove the fetus.
One in 11,000 pregnancies develop into a lithopaedion, with many women remaining unaware of it because their bodies are shielded from the dead tissue, which has been calcified on the outside, says the Huff Post.
According to the explanation given by Dr. Natalie Burger, an endocrinologist and fertility specialist in Texas, lithopaedions began as ectopic pregnancies – a condition where the fertilised egg becomes stuck on it’s way to the womb and develops outside of the uterus.
“Usually an ectopic pregnancy will mean a [fallopian] tubal pregnancy, but in a small percentage of cases, the pregnancy can actually occur in the abdominal cavity — in places like the bowel, the ovary, or even on the aorta,” she told NBC News in 2009.
The endocrinologist added: “These are very rare locations and they can be very dangerous.”
The first lithopedion case was seen as far back as the year 1582. An autopsy of a 68-year-old woman showed she had carried a “stone child” for 28 years, Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine reported.