KUCHING: Doctors removed a dead foetus from the stomach of a 15-year-old boy in Sungai Petani, the Daily Mail in UK reported recently.
The patient who was not named had been plagued with stomach pain and bloating since he was born, but doctors were unable to ascertain why until the boy sought help at Sultan Abdul Halim Hospital in Sungai Petani.
Surgeons removed the foetus, which weighed 1.6kg and had deformed limbs, as well as its own hair, penis and pubes.
The dead foetus was the boy’s twin, and was revealed to be a case of foetus in fetu, a rare condition that affects only one in five million live births where the malformed foetus is found in the body of its twin.
The non-viable baby, which wasn’t capable of living independently from its host, had no mouth, umbilical cord or placenta, the doctors wrote in BMJ Case Reports.
They initially requested CT scans for the boy when they felt a tender, hard mass over the central part of his abdomen — a tell-tale sign of a tumour.
Scans then revealed a ‘huge intra-abdominal mass’ that was 23.8cm long, which showed the development of a spine. This halted their suspicions of cancer.
They wrote: ‘Components in favour of a fetus that were seen within the mass include deformed skull, vertebral body and long bones.’
Writing in the journal, the team of doctors, led by Dr Rashide Yaacob, said that the complete removal of the dead twin is crucial.
He wrote: “There is a possibility of malignant recurrence if any of the tissue is not completely excised.
“The operation to remove foetus in fetu is a challenging operation as the mass is highly vascular with multiple feeding vessels.
“The big size of the foetus has made surgery more difficult as there is high possibility of injuring surrounding structures.”
The patient has since recovered.
After the risky operation, the unborn baby was returned to the family for a private funeral as per the mother’s request.
Foetus in fetu is caused by the incomplete separation of twins, which fails to grow and instead becomes an internal part of the healthy twin.
The foetus is found in the abdomen in 80 per cent of cases, although there have been reports of it occurring in the skull.
Usually, the unborn twin doesn’t survive long after birth, but it can be life-threatening for the baby that does survive.