WARNING: GRAPHIC PHOTO BELOW
An unusual case involving an infant who was born with another baby growing inside of her abdomen has gained international attention after the delivering doctor alerted a local television station, which documented the child’s birth and subsequent surgery to remove her partially formed twin.
Dr. Miguel Parra-Saavedra, a high-risk specialist in Barranquilla, Colombia, told The New York Times that he first saw the mother, Monica Vega, when she was 35-weeks pregnant after her obstetrician suspected that her unborn child, named Itzamara, may have developed a liver cyst.
But Parra-Saavedra’s equipment actually detected a fluid-filled space that contained a tiny, partially developed infant, and a separate umbilical cord that was connected to Itzamara’s intestine, which was acting as its blood source. The rare phenomenon has been documented several times before and is classified as "fetus-in-fetu."
The rare condition is a congenital anomaly in which a malformed, parasitic fetus is found in the body of its developing twin. Various fetal parts can be present like the vertebrae, with a varying number of developed limbs. According to the British Medical Journal, it is estimated to occur in 1 out of every 500,000 births, and is most commonly presented as a “mass in the abdomen,” however it can occur in other parts of the body.
Researchers note that the occurrence is very similar to that of a teratoma, which is a type of embryonal tumor that typically forms from germ cells. Fetus-in-fetu does not undergo a malignant change more commonly seen with teratomas, and the latter would not have certain features such as a vertebral column, that can be found in a fetus-in-fetu case, according to the National Institutes of Health.
On Feb. 22, Vega gave birth to Itzamara at 37 weeks gestation via C-section, and surgeons removed the twin laparoscopically from her abdomen the following day. Parra-Saavedra told the New York Times that the twin had a head and developed limbs, but did not have a brain or heart.
Parra-Saavedra said Itzamara is in good condition and is a "normal baby."
"I have never heard of anything like this in my entire life," Parra-Saavedra said of making the diagnosis. "I really did not expect this to happen."