Doctors treating an elderly Chinese woman for stomach ache were stunned when they found that she had been carrying an unborn child for 60 years.
Ninety-two-year-old Huang Yijun, of Huangjiaotan, revealed that her child had died in the womb way back in 1948, and that she did not have it removed because doctors would charge 100 pounds for the job.
"It was a huge sum at the time - more than the whole family earned in several years so I did nothing and ignored it," the Sun quoted her as saying.
The secret surfaced after Huang hurt her stomach, and went to hospital for a scan.
Now, the clinical history is a bit sketchy but the most likely presumptive diagnosis is a lithopedion (litho = stone; pedion = child), or "stone baby." [Warning, graphic pics!]
Lithopedion [Warning, path specimen!]
A lithopedion is a rare phenomenon with only a few hundred cases report in the medical literature. Usually, a lithopedion occurs after a fetus dies during an ectopic abdominal pregnancy and is too large to be reabsorbed by the body (EGA 14 wks and up).
To shield itself from the degenerating tissue of the fetal foreign body the woman's body will encase the fetus and/or its covering membranes in a calciferous substance.
Believe it or not, forming a lithopedion is a best case scenario. The alternatives, from Williams 21ed, p. 900 (text references omitted):
If the fetus dies before reaching a size too large to be resorbed, it may undergo suppuration, mummification, or calcification. Bacteria may gain access to the gestational products, particularly when they are adherent to intestines, resulting in suppuration. Eventually, the abscess ruptures, and if the woman does not die of peritonitis and septicemia, fetal parts may be extruded through the abdominal wall or more commonly into the intestine or bladder. Mummification and formation of a lithopedion occasionally ensue, and calcified products of conception may be carried for years. There are instances in which a period of 20 to 50 years elapsed before removal of a lithopedion at operation or autopsy. Much more rarely, the fetus is converted into a yellowish, greasy mass to which the term adipocere is applied.
The body is quite an amazing apparatus, no?