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Embryonic Twin Removed from Young Girl’s Abdomen

Written By Cara McDonough
Last updated: February 14, 2023

A nine-year-old in Greece suffering from stomach pain was found to be unknowingly carrying her embryonic twin.

30-Second Summary

Doctors at Larissa General Hospital in Greece examined the girl and discovered an embryo more than two inches long. After it was removed, the girl made a full recovery.

“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, situations like the one in Greece do occur.

In 2005, doctors in Bangladesh said they removed a long-dead fetus from the abdomen of 16-year-old Abu Raihan. 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.”

Headline Link: The young girl was carrying an embryonic twin

A nine-year-old girl came in complaining of stomach pains, and doctors discovered a growth. Only after removing it did they realize the girl’s body had been housing an embryo. The girl’s family does not want to be identified, reports the Associated Press.

Source: The International Herald Tribune (Associated Press)

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Related Topics: Dermoid cysts, Vanishing Twin Syndrome and chimeras

Vanishing Twin Syndrome occurs when one of a set of twin/multiple fetuses disappears in the uterus during pregnancy, according to the American Pregnancy Association. Vanishing Twin Syndrome is now more easily diagnosable due to  the availability of early ultrasounds, which can detect the presence of twins or multiple fetuses during the first trimester.

Source: American Pregnancy

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Reports do not suggest that the nine-year-old was suffering from a dermoid cyst, although the condition can cause similar symptoms. A dermoid cyst—also called a mature teratoma—is a saclike growth, present at birth, which contains structures such as hair, fluid, teeth, or skin glands. The cysts are caused when skin and skin structures become trapped during fetal development, according to WebMD, and usually occur on the face, inside the skull, on the lower back, and in the ovaries. Dermoid cysts can become inflamed and painful, and can be removed by medical professionals.

Source: WebMD

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Some evidence suggests that, in rare cases, a human “chimera” could be the result of vanishing twin syndrome. ABC reported on the condition in 2006, documenting two cases where women did not match their children’s DNA: “In human biology, a chimera is an organism with at least two genetically distinct types of cells—or, in other words, someone meant to be a twin. But while in the mother’s womb, two fertilized eggs fuse, becoming one fetus that carries two distinct genetic codes—two separate strands of DNA.” According to the story, there were only 30 documented cases worldwide in August, 2006.

Source: ABC

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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.” The New York Times reported that “Whether Mr. Hamilton is guilty or innocent, his defense does refer to a real phenomenon. Researchers who have no involvement in Mr. Hamilton’s case say it actually is possible for someone to have two types of blood in his body, without doping. … One route to this odd state, called chimerism, is the vanishing twin.”

Source: The New York Times

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Background: Lost twins discovered

Doctors who operated on 16-year-old Abu Raihan said that the dead fetus found in his abdomen was the result of a rare condition where two fetuses are conceived as conjoined twins, but one absorbs the other. In April, 2003, doctors at Chimkent Children’s Hospital in Kazakhstan, discovered the dead fetus of a twin brother while operating on a seven-year-old boy. It had developed into a tumor, but had hair, nails and bones.

Source: The BBC

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ABC reported that Sanju Bhagat “had one of the world’s most bizarre medical conditions—fetus in fetu. It is an extremely rare abnormality that occurs when a fetus gets trapped inside its twin. The trapped fetus can survive as a parasite even past birth by forming an umbilical cordlike structure that leaches its twin’s blood supply until it grows so large that it starts to harm the host, at which point doctors usually intervene.”

Source: ABC

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