Imagine going to the hospital with a swollen stomach and finding out that you have a living twin inside your belly. That’s what happened to Sanju Bhagat, a 36-year-old man from India, who had a rare condition called fetus in fetu (FIF).
FIF is a developmental abnormality in which a malformed fetus is found within the body of its twin, usually in the retroperitoneum. It occurs in about 1 in 500,000 live births and less than 200 cases have been reported in medical literature.
Bhagat had a swollen stomach since childhood and had trouble breathing. He went to the hospital and doctors thought he had a tumor. However, when they operated on him, they found a half-formed body of his twin brother inside his abdomen.
“To my surprise and horror, I could shake hands with somebody inside,” Dr Ajay Mehta, who performed the surgery, told ABC News. “It was a bit shocking for me.”
The twin had limbs, hair, genitals, nails and a partially formed head. The twin was feeding off Bhagat’s blood supply and had grown so large that it was pressing on his diaphragm. Doctors removed the twin and Bhagat recovered from the surgery.
FIF is usually detected in early childhood and more commonly in male gender. Only eight cases of adult FIF and one case of female adult FIF have been reported worldwide.
One of the most recent cases of FIF was reported in November 2022, when eight fetuses were found in the abdomen of a 21-day-old baby in Ranchi, India. The size of the fetuses ranged from three centimetres to five centimetres and they were settled inside a cyst in the abdomen.
“As per the papers and journals available so far, one fetus was reported in most of the FIF cases. Case of eight fetuses has not been reported from anywhere yet,” Dr Md Imran, who performed the surgery, told NDTV.
The operation was successful and the baby’s condition was normal. The head of Rani hospital, Rajesh Singh, said that they were preparing to publish the case in international journals.
FIF can be diagnosed by radiological imaging such as ultrasound, CT scan or MRI. The definitive diagnosis is based on histopathological examination of the excised mass. FIF can cause complications such as abdominal distension, pain, breathing difficulty, infection, hemorrhage or malignancy. Surgical excision is the ideal treatment for FIF.
FIF is a fascinating and mysterious phenomenon that challenges our understanding of human development and biology. It also raises ethical and psychological questions about the identity and rights of the hidden twins. How would you feel if you discovered that you had a living twin inside your body?
– 8 Fetuses Found In Abdomen Of 21-Day-Old Baby In Ranchi In Rare Case, NDTV, November 04, 2022
– 8 Fetuses Found In 21 Day Old Baby s Abdomen Rare Case Of Fetus In Fetu, India.com, November 04, 2022
– Doctors Find 36-Year-Old Man’s Twin Inside His Belly, ABC News, June 30, 2006