Medical oddities: They keep us talking and clicking.
While scientists were making advances in stem cell and breast cancer research, it was often the strangest of health stories that captivated readers this year.
Here are a dozen of our most clicked-on health stories of 2007:
1.) Eight-Limbed Girl Has Four Limbs Removed: Two-year-old Lakshmi was born joined at the pelvis to a "parasitic twin" that stopped developing in her mother's womb. She absorbed the limbs, kidneys and other body parts of the undeveloped twin and was born with eight limbs. On Nov. 7, more than 30 surgeons operated for 24 hours on the child, removing her extra appendages. She left a hospital in Bangalore, India in mid-December and is doing well, according to doctors.
2.) Woman Almost Dies Following Bikini Wax: The Brazilian bikini wax may be popular with women all over the world, but an Australian woman nearly lost her life undergoing the hair-removing procedure. A 20-year-old Melbourne, Australia woman with uncontrolled type 1 diabetes made the news last July after her brush with death was detailed in the June issue of the journal of Clinical Infectious Diseases.
"Our case is notable, because it illustrates the infectious risks of pubic hair removal in a patient with diabetes," wrote the article’s authors. "The beauty industry is growing at an unprecedented rate and more invasive and potentially harmful procedures are increasingly available."
3.) One-Year-Old Has Two Dead Triplets Removed From Abdomen: In December, a 1-year-old girl's deceased siblings were removed from her abdomen by Indonesian doctors at a Sumatra island hospital. The two bodies, believed to be triplets that did not fully develop, were successfully removed from the girl during a five-hour surgery. Doctors initially diagnosed the girl with stomach tumors.
4.) Girl Has 10-Pound Hairball Removed From Stomach: Surgeons in Chicago removed a 10-pound hairball from the stomach of an 18-year-old girl suffering from a psychological condition in which she ate her own hair, according to a report in the Thanksgiving edition of the New England Journal of Medicine. The hairball measured 15 inches by 7 inches by 7 inches when it was removed. The patient was later discharged from the hospital and given psychiatric help.
5.) ‘Tree Man’ Sprouts Roots: Dede, a 35-year-old fisherman from a rural Indonesian town, is living with a rare and peculiar medical condition that has transformed his life and his body. Tree-like warty “roots” cover his skin, and grow outward from his arms and feet. The condition developed after Dede cut his knee as a teenager. An American doctor attributes the infection to the human papilloma virus and an immune system deficiency, and believes the condition can be cured with regular vitamin A treatments.
6.) Jawless Boy Undergoes First of Many Surgeries: A 17-year-old from Ireland, who has a rare disease that left him without a jaw or chin, underwent the first of many surgeries in June at The Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York with the hope of someday having a "normal" face to show the world. Alan Doherty has an almost unheard-of condition called otofacial syndrome, which has rendered him unable to eat or speak. He had his second surgery in November. The operations will continue into 2008.
7.) Man With Almost No Brain Lives Functional Life: French doctors were amazed in July to find that a 44-year-old civil servant with an abnormally small brain has led a normal life with a slightly lower than normal IQ. The condition is called Dandy Walker complex and is a genetically sporadic disorder that occurs in one out of every 25,000 live births, mostly in females.
8.) Parasitic Worm Ravages Woman’s Body Following Two-Week Bender: Alcohol brings out the worst in some people. For one woman in the Netherlands, years of alcohol misuse topped off with a few weeks of binge drinking brought out a parasitic worm, which had been inside her for more than a quarter-century, according to a report in the June issue of the Lancet. Doctors believed the woman contracted the parasite in Suriname, South America (where she was born) more than 27 years earlier. It was only after chronic alcohol misuse and malnutrition that the infestation manifested, causing havoc in her digestive tract, including uncontrollable vomiting, diarrhea, and fever.
9.) Oscar the Cat: A Furry Grim Reaper: Oscar, the resident cat at a Providence, R.I. nursing home, seems to have an uncanny knack for predicting when nursing home patients are going to die, by curling up next to them during their final hours. His accuracy, observed in 25 cases, has led the staff to call family members once he has chosen someone. It usually means they have less than four hours to live.
10.) Sixty-Year-Old N.J. Woman Gives Birth to Twins: Foxnews.com was the first to break the story of Frieda Birnbaum, a 60-year-old from New Jersey who gave birth to twin boys in May, becoming the oldest woman to give birth to twins in the United States. The babies were delivered at Hackensack University Medical Center in Hackensack, N.J., by caesarean section. "Baby A" weighed 4 pounds, 11.4 ounces, and "Baby B" weighed 4 pounds, 11 ounces.
11.) Record Hangover in the History of Drinking? When a 37-year old man walked into a hospital emergency room in Glasgow, Scotland complaining of "wavy" vision and a non-stop headache that had lasted four weeks, doctors were at first stumped, The Lancet reported in October. After finding out that the man had consumed 60 pints — roughly 35 liters — of beer over a four day period, following a domestic crisis, doctors concluded the man was suffering from the mother of all hangovers.
12.) Man Oozes Green Blood Before Operation: Doctors about to operate on man suffering from compartment syndrome were having trouble inserting a line, but what happened next seemed like science fiction. The man began oozing dark green blood out of the catheter, not unlike Mr. Spock might have done if he had been on the operating table. The man, who was taking a number of medications, is believed to have developed sulfhemoglobinaemia, a condition that forms when a sulphur atom is incorporated into the hemoglobin molecule. The condition was attributed to the migraine medicine sumatriptan.