x-ray machineAn 82-year-old woman in Colombia was searching for the cause of her horrible stomach pain when her doctors stumbled upon a 40-year-old reason. Inside her was a 40-year-old "stone baby," the remnants of a fetus that had implanted outside her womb, grown a bit, and then calcified. Horrifying, right? And it's not the first time it has happened.

Still, it is exceedingly rare. There are only 300 documented cases from around the world of this condition called lithopedion. Basically, a fetus develops – and dies – outside of the uterus usually in the abdominal cavity.  At that point, if it is too large to be absorbed back into the body, the fetus calcifies in order to protect the woman's body from dead tissue.

In this woman's case, it was discovered because her doctor ordered an abdominal x-ray. It had been there since she was 42. How insane is that?

The woman went into surgery and will likely be OK and the reality is, this is not something most of us have to worry about at all (we hope). It is so very rare.

Still, these kind of medical marvels are both fascinating and frightening.

But apparently, while lithopedian is very rare, abdominal pregnancy is less so. It occurs about one out of every 11,000 pregnancies. Only about 1.5 percent of those develop into lithopedion. It's just hard to even imagine.

There are still questions. How old was the fetus when it died? Presumably it was too young to have started moving, but was old enough to be described as a "baby." Emotionally, that has to be hard on the woman who went through this as well. It's like finding out you had a miscarriage 40 years later.

As someone who is currently pregnant (who has been watching my stomach move to and for while I write this as she wiggles around), it is hard to even imagine being pregnant and not realizing it, but perhaps this woman did not have access to medical care at that time and certainly, if her symptoms stopped, then it makes sense.

But still. Wow. How frightening and bizarre. Hopefully she makes a full recovery.

Have you heard of lithopedian?

 

Image via Newtown grafitti /Flickr