An unidentified baby from Maryland had a rare brain tumor removed revealing fully formed teeth. The four-month-old child survived removal surgery and is developing normally.
Doctors first noticed a problem when the rate of the infant’s head growth became abnormal. The boy underwent a brain scan which revealed a brain tumor measuring 4.1cm by 4cm by 3.5cm. The scan also revealed small masses that looked like teeth, usually found in the lower jaw. The doctors were able to successfully perform surgery to remove the tumor and its teeth.
The occurrence of teeth in tumors is not extremely rare as teratoma tumors often produce teeth, bones, hair and eyes. Doctors said teratoma tumors are unique in that they have all three of the tissue types found in embryo development.
However, doctors were stunned by finding teeth in the baby’s tumor, called Craniopharyngioma, as it only has one layer of tissue. “It’s not every day you see teeth in any type of tumor,” said Dr. Narlin Beaty, a scientist at the University of Maryland Medical Center. “In…Craniopharyngioma, it’s unheard of.”
During surgery the tumor was identified as Craniopharyngioma, a benign tumor that develops near the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland is categorized as an endocrine gland at the base of a brain where hormones are released into the bloodstream. Craniopharyngioma can cause optic damage, hormonal damage and intensified pressure on the brain. In addition to the strange teeth, this type of tumor is extremely rare in children under two years of age.
After surgery to remove such a tumor, patients such as this baby usually continue hormonal treatments throughout life. Learning difficulties often accompany craniopharyngioma, but the baby is only now a year old and showing no signs of developmental problems. No reports have confirmed the baby suffering from visual problems, either.
Though the tumor with teeth was removed, the baby will continue with regular MRIs.
Dr. Beaty and her colleague, Dr. Edward Ahn, of Johns Hopkins Children’s Center performed the surgery together and have published the findings in The New England Journal of Medicine. Though the initial scan showed calcium masses, it was still a shock to extract and confirm the existence of perfectly formed teeth.
“…when we pulled out a full tooth…I [thought] that’s something…different,” said Beaty.
The tumor’s teeth were delivered to a pathologist to be studied. When the rarity of new diseases or diagnoses occur, it is always possible they will reappear. For preventative purposes, specialists will analyze the teeth and suggest any further scientific investigation. Beaty said the event solidifies the idea that cells producing tumors are similar or even identical to cells which form teeth.
The enigmatic baby of this story is now a healthy, developing child. “He’s doing…well, all things considered,” Beaty said. “This was a big tumor…in the center of his brain. Before… modern [surgery]…this child would not have survived.” The teeth-invested brain tumor removed from this baby will be an anomaly in medicine for the unforeseeable future.
By Erin P. Friar