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Elderly woman is identified with calcified fetus for more than five decades

An 81-year-old woman identified a calcified baby after having a serious infection. The condition, called lithopedia, was identified after the patient was admitted to the hospital, where they identified that the fetus had been stored for more than five decades. After the diagnosis, the woman suffered a generalized infection, caused by a urinary tract infection, and ended up passing away.

What is lithopedia

Lithopedia, an extremely rare condition, arises from an ectopic pregnancy, that is, the egg develops outside the uterus and fallopian tubes, progressing to fetal death and calcification, accounting for 1 to 2% of pregnancies.

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The estimated incidence is 1 per 10,000 births and 1.4% of ectopic pregnancies. The fetus, resulting from an unrecognized abdominal pregnancy, can calcify and go undetected for decades, potentially causing future complications.

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The event is extremely rare, occurring in just 0.0054% of all pregnancies and resulting in around 330 known cases worldwide, according to a 2019 study published in SciELO. Additionally, about 1.5 to 1.8% of abdominal babies may become lithopedic.


Embed from Getty Images

The condition is identified with imaging tests (Photo: reproduction/skaman306/Getty Images)

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Body reaction

Pregnancy normally occurs inside the uterus, but in some situations it can happen outside it. When this occurs, the fetus may not cause obvious symptoms, going unnoticed until the mother's immune system recognizes it as a foreign body and surrounds it with a calcified substance to protect it from infection. This “stone baby” can remain undetected for decades, potentially resulting in future complications if not diagnosed correctly.

Accurate diagnosis is essential to prevent these complications. Gynecologist João Bosco Borges highlights that this type of complication is more common in developing countries, indicating a possible failure in early diagnosis.

The National Institutes of Health in the United States indicate that the majority of patients with this condition do not present symptoms, and the diagnosis usually occurs incidentally on imaging tests. Symptoms may include abdominal pain, chronic constipation, intestinal obstruction, fistula formation, and pelvic abscess.

Featured photo: Stone baby housed inside the elderly woman (Reproduction/G1)

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Elderly woman is identified with calcified fetus for more than five decades

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