An elderly Colombian woman has been found to have a 40-year-old fetus inside her abdomen. The 82-year-old was taken to the hospital suffering from stomach pain and doctors there discovered something shocking; the elderly woman had a dead, calcified fetus inside her. Such a medical event is an extremely rare occurrence. It is known as a lithopedion, or a “stone baby”. This is the result of an ectopic pregnancy where a fetus happens to be conceived outside of the uterus.
The woman had an ultrasound and it showed that there was a tumor inside her abdomen. When she was examined, it was discovered that it was not a tumor, but the lithopedion instead.
In a few of the times when an abdominal fetus expires, the mother’s body will calcify it so to protect herself from becoming infected. The odds of having an abdominal pregnancy are estimated to be about one in 11,000. Lithopedic pregnancies happen for fewer than 2 percent of these.
The woman will go through surgery in order to have the mass removed, stated Colombian doctors.
There have been only about 300 documented cases of lithopedia in recorded medical literature. The earliest which was recorded happened in 1582. In that event, physicians were performing an autopsy on a 68-year-old woman and discovered she had most likely carried a stone baby for almost 30 years.
However, archaeological evidence reaches back even farther. There is an example of a “stone baby” which was discovered in a fourth century Roman dig in France. The medical condition was even discussed by the ancient physician Albucasis in a tenth century dissertation even though he did not know what it was.
The age of the lithopedions is not unique either. An elderly Chinese woman was found to have a 66-year-old “stone baby” in her abdomen in 2009. However, she knew about it. She was told she had miscarried back in 1948 but she did not have the money to have it removed at that time.
A woman who might be carrying a lithopedion will most often not even know it, unless something happens and complications begin to emerge. The doctors who treated the Colombian woman at first believed she was suffering from gastroenteritis.
Whenever a pregnancy ends up implanting in the abdomen, the placenta attaches to other organs. If it is able to establish a good blood supply, then unknown to both the mother and her doctor, it is possible there might be a possible lithopeadion in the works.
Most likely a fetus will not survive under such conditions and will then die and be absorbed by the mother’s body. But if the fetus begins to grow to a size that is large enough and then dies without causing any problems to the mother, her body will occasionally act as if the fetus is a foreign invader, something that is a very dangerous source of possible infection. The mother’s body will encase it in layer after layer of calcium until the fetus is actually entombed in stone inside the mother.
There it can stay for years, without anyone knowing the wiser. As long as it does not pose any threat, no one even knows the fetus is even there.
However this “stone baby” began causing problems after 40 years, and the Colombian woman discovered something shocking inside her abdomen.
By Kimberly Ruble