40-Year-Old Fetus In 82-Year-Old
A 82-year-old woman went to the hospital with stomach pain and doctors discovered something astounding: she was carrying a 40-year-old fetus.
The dead, calcified fetus is a very rare instance of a lithopedion, or "stone baby," which results from an ectopic pregnancy where a fetus is conceived outside the uterus in the abdomen.
In some cases when an abdominal fetus dies, the mother's body calcifies it in order to protect the rest of the body from infection. The chances of abdominal pregnancy are estimated at one in every 11,000, and lithopedic pregnancies account for less than 2% of these.
The Colombian woman will undergo surgery to have the mass removed, international news media reported.
Only about 300 cases of lithopedia are accounted for in medical literature. The earliest on record happened in France, in 1582. In that case, doctors discovered during an autopsy of a 68-year-old woman that she had carried a stone baby for an estimated 28 years.
Women carrying a lithopedion often remain unaware unless, as in the new case, a complication emerges.
Doctors at Tunjuelito Hospital in Bogota initally suspected the unnamed woman was suffering from gastroenteritis. They announced the finding December 9.
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A lithopedion – also spelled lithopaedion or lithopædion – (Ancient Greek: λίθος = stone; Ancient Greek: παιδός = child), or stone baby, is a rare phenomenon which occurs most commonly when a fetus dies during an abdominal pregnancy, is too large to be reabsorbed by the body, and calcifies on the outside, shielding the mother's body from the dead tissue of the baby and preventing infection.
Lithopedia may occur from 14 weeks gestation to full term. It is not unusual for a stone baby to remain undiagnosed for decades, and it is often not until a patient is examined for other conditions or a proper examination is conducted that includes an X-ray, that a stone baby is found.
The condition was first described in a treatise by the physician Albucasis in the 10th century, but fewer than 300 cases have been noted in 400 years of medical literature. The earliest lithopedion is one found in an archaeological excavation at Bering Sinkhole, on the Edwards Plateau in Kerr County, Texas dated to 1100 BC. Another early example was found in a Gallo-Roman archaeological site in Costebelle, southern France, dating to the 4th Century AD.
In 1880, German physician Friedrich Küchenmeister reviewed 47 cases of lithopedia from the medical literature and identified three subgroups: Lithokelyphos ("Stone Sheath"), where calcification occurs on the placental membrane and not the fetus; Lithotecnon ("Stone Son") or "true" lithopedion, where the fetus itself is calcified after entering the abdominal cavity, following the rupture of the placental and ovarian membranes; and Lithokelyphopedion ("Stone Sheath [and] Child"), where both fetus and sac are calcified. Lithopedia can originate both as tubal or ovarian pregnancies.