A seven-month-old child with a rare condition called ‘foetus in foetu’, carrying a partially developed 13g foetus of its twin, was successfully operated on February 19 at the Civil Hospital in Asarwa, Ahmedabad. The condition involves a malformed foetus inside the body of its twin. According to the doctors at Civil Hospital, the patient, Prinsa Rathava, was carrying an undeveloped foetus that had a normal vertebrae column, brain tissues, head, limb buds and an anal dimple.
This is an extremely rare condition, and entails a risky operation to treat the child born. Here’s trying to understand the various facets of ‘foetus in foetu’.
How is the condition caused?
The formation is caused by the incomplete separation of twins, which fails to grow and instead becomes an internal part of the healthy twin. It is not a benign condition, but as the foetus grows at an alarming rate it starts putting pressure on the organs of the healthy baby, according to Dr Rakesh Joshi, head of the department of pediatric surgery at Civil Hospital.
How rare is the condition?
According to medical literature, around 200 cases have been recorded so far. Dr Joshi and his team have dealt with a similar case in the past as well when they removed a 500g foetus, with a head and feet from the body of a seven-month-old child from Junagadh.
What are the symptoms shown?
In the case of Rathava, the condition was first visible as a lump, when the child was five months -old. The alarming growth of the lump led the parents to seek medical counsel. The other symptoms are secondary to the mass effect and include jaundice, hydronephrosis, intestinal obstruction, meconium peritonitis, respiratory distress and vomiting.
Where is the foetus located?
The foetus is mostly located in the retroperitoneal space, that is, around the kidneys. Other reported sites include scrotum, cranium, kidneys, adrenals, mediastinum, and lymph nodes, according to a report published in US National Library of Medicine.
When is the condition likely to be diagnosed?
The diagnosis period is variable and can range from a few months to thirty years, says Dr Sumita Saha, a consultant at Pediatrics and Neonatology, Fortis Hospital, Anandapur, Kolkata. She added that the mass is benign and may not necessarily cause harm.