Thursday, July 14, 2016
Lithopedion - calcified fetus
This highly unusual specimen remained in the abdomen of a woman for 55 years. During this time the mother had five additional uncomplicated pregnancies.
The strange condition, lithopedion, occurs when a fetus dies and calcifies outside of the womb.
Lithopedion, which is Greek for “stone baby,” is so rare that there are only around 400 cases of it documented in history.
Stone babies occur as the result of an ectopic pregnancy, or pregnancy where the fetus develops outside of the mother’s womb. In the case of stone babies, the deceased fetus has no way to leave the body. Instead of allowing the fetus to rot inside the abdomen and expose the mother to potential infection, her body works to calcify it — or mummify it in calcium. Calcification is essentially an accumulation of salts the human body uses as a barrier against potential infection.
Photo via Otis Historical Archives Nat'l Museum of Health & Medicine