Tiffnie Esquibel cradles her son Sam.

Case of Foot Found in Baby’s Brain Recalls Other Medical Anomalies

December 18, 2008 01:09 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Doctors discovered a foot and other body parts in the brain of a newborn. Finds of this nature are rare, but not unheard of.

Doctors Discover Foot in Child’s Brain

The case of Sam Esquibel is making waves throughout the medical community. The three-day-old boy underwent surgery on Oct. 3 to remove what was believed to be a brain tumor. But during the procedure, pediatric neurosurgeon Dr. Paul Grabb of the Memorial Hospital for Children in Colorado found “an almost perfectly formed foot and parts of another foot, a hand and a thigh” in the tumor, The Daily Mail reports.

The exact cause of the growth is currently unclear. Dr. Grabb said it might have been a type of congenital brain tumor, but the complexity of a foot or a hand generally exceeds that of a tumor. Grabb also points to “fetus in fetu,” which is a rare abnormality that occurs when a fetus gets trapped inside its twin.

To find a perfectly formed structure (like this) is extremely unique, unusual, borderline unheard of,” said Grabb, according to the Denver Post.

Grabb also said that the Esquibel case could offer the medical community new possibilities. “How does the body form complete extremities? Who is to say we can’t grow a heart, leg or foot?” Grabb said.

The baby will still need monthly blood tests to check for any further growths, and 25 physical therapy sessions to help with neck and head use, but the child’s mother said the boy is now doing well. “You’d never know if he didn’t have a scar there,” she said.

Background: Medical anomalies traced to twins

In May, doctors at Larissa General Hospital in Greece examined a nine-year-old and discovered an embryo more than two inches long. After it was removed, the girl made a full recovery, the Associated Press reported.

“They could see on the right side that her belly was swollen, but they couldn’t suspect that this tumor would hide an embryo,” hospital director Iakovos Brouskelis said. The embryo was a formed fetus with a head, hair and eyes, but no brain or umbilical cord, according to the hospital’s pediatric department.

Scientists believe that the incidence of one twin absorbing the other in the womb occurs in one of every 500,000 live births.

Vanishing Twin Syndrome, when one twin is either miscarried or its tissue is reabsorbed by the mother, is far more common. According to the American Pregnancy Association, the incidence occurs in 21–30 percent of twin or multiple pregnancies.

But, while rare, such situations do occur.

In 2005, doctors in Bangladesh said they removed a long-dead fetus from the abdomen of 16-year-old Abu Raihan, according to the BBC. The fetus, which had grown like a tumor and weighed nearly five pounds, would have become the boy’s twin had it developed normally, they said.

In India in 2006, doctors operating on 36-year-old Sanju Bhagat found what they believe was the mutated body of the man’s dead twin brother. According to ABC, “the half-formed creature had feet and hands that were very developed. Its fingernails were quite long.”

When champion American cyclist Tyler Hamilton was accused of blood doping in April 2005, he said the different blood found mixed in with his own must have come from a “vanishing twin.” 

Reference: Demroid cysts, Vanishing Twin Syndrome and chimeras


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