At first his parents must have thought it was a tumour. Their 10-month-old son’s abdomen was rapidly expanding, almost bursting.
Last week in Indonesia’s West Nusa Tenggara, the couple took their baby boy to their local hospital in Lombok, fearing the worst.
Muhammad Abdalul Zikri Hakim’s life now hangs in the balance, but his parents Asmani and Rusman could never have guessed the likely cause. A rare condition where the boy’s own twin is inside his body.
Doctors at the West Nusa Tenggara General Hospital suspect foetus in foetu, a rare condition they have never come across before.
It occurs in one in every 500,000 births, but there is thought to be less than 100 cases documented around the world.
Now the doctors at the basic hospital on the holiday island will have to perform a complicated and rare operation to remove the mass.
They admit they cannot predict the scenarios that could present during the surgery.
Foetus in foetu is described as a condition when a foetus becomes enveloped by its twin in the womb.
The foetus can then survive as a parasite, long after birth.
“The tissues are dead tissues but the blood vessels remain alive,” said Lalu Hamzi Fikri, the director of the hospital where CT scans and x-rays revealed what was inside baby Zikri’s abdomen.
“It’s dependent on the main source or parent, which in this case is the baby.”
According to medical reports, foetus in foetu usually occurs very early in a pregnancy when, instead of separating, one foetus becomes trapped inside the other.
To make matters worse, in this case, baby Zikri is unwell and undernourished and doctors at the hospital say they cannot perform an operation on the boy until his condition improves.
“The malnourishment is caused by the existence of tissues, a foreign object inside the body, that foreign object is a parasite, it eats off its source or parent,” Dr Fikri said
“This case is very rare that’s why we need to be extra careful in handling this, I hope things work out smoothly.”
It is common for Indonesians who can afford it to travel overseas to countries like Singapore and Malaysia to seek complicated medical treatments.
The hospital said once the boy’s condition had stabilised, nine specialists would be involved in the surgery on Lombok island.
Obstetrician Agus Rusdi expressed concern about the procedure.
“All the doctors met and looked at all the possibilities, we also played out some scenarios, like exercises to do this operation,” Dr Rudi said.
“Which side is it attached to? The worst scenario is that if it is attached to the back, it’s going to be harder.”
The doctor said the easiest scenario would be if the parasite or suspected foetus was attached to the stomach and not close to the child’s vital organs.
This post originally appeared on ABC News.
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