This mass of flesh and bone is a parasitic twin removed from the abdomen of a newborn boy who hosted his partially developed sibling throughout their mum’s pregnancy.
The condition known as foetus in foetu was not conclusively diagnosed until six days after the but was born, when MRI scans revealed the beginnings of what medics identified as limbs.
Doctor Xia Shunlin, with Huai’an Maternity and Child Health Care Hospital in East China’s Jiangsu Province, said the growth inside the child’s abdominal cavity was first discovered when his mum was five months pregnant.
The unidentifiable fleshy mass had formed in the space between the boy’s stomach and intestines, and it grew larger as the child developed inside his mum’s womb, the doctor said.
However, as it lay behind two abdomens – the boy’s as well as his mum’s – doctors were unable to conclusively determine what the mass was, or whether it posed any immediate threat to the infant’s health.
Doctor Xia said: “We ordered MRI scans which showed the mass had limbs and bones.
“It was an embryo, and therefore we diagnosed it as a parasitic twin.
“After we removed the mass in surgery, we found it to be an embryo which had developed for about nine weeks.
“It had begun to develop limbs, including a leg.”
The 5-centimetre (2-inch) parasitic twin, which had been essentially absorbed by its sibling, fed off the nutrients of its host brother but could not be considered a life in its own right, Doctor Xia said.
As it was not supplied by the mother’s placenta, it would not have developed and “lived”, he added.
The medic said the parasitic twin needed to be removed in order for it not to become a source of potential infection in the future.
The boy is expected to make a full recovery from his operation.
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