Calcified Fetus in a 91-year-old Woman’s Belly


A 91-year-old woman underwent X-rays after a fall. Surprisingly she finds out that she has been carrying a fetus for 60 years

A 91-year-old woman named, Estela Meléndez, from a small town of La Boca, Chile, presented after a fall. For many years, Meléndez had a lump in her belly. She had a history of difficulty hearing. Moreover, in recent years, her gait has been slowed by arthritis. Meléndez’s husband, Manuel González, had died at age 91. They had no children, and this was one of her regrets. After the fall, her second X-ray revealed a calcified fetus.

After the fall, when she underwent the first X-ray, the doctors suspected a mass which appeared to be serious.

She said:

“The doctor said I had a tumor and that they needed to operate on me.”

However, when the doctors performed a second X-ray, they realised that the mass they were looking at was not a tumour, but a dead fetus.

Luis Meléndez, the woman’s nephew, said:

“Can you imagine? More than 60 years! I wonder how she never felt bad once the fetus died inside of her.”

The doctors believed that the fetus may have been present in the patient’s womb for over six decades. Estela was suffering from a phenomenon called a lithopedion, also known as a stone baby. This gave her occasional mild pain but no other symptoms.

Lithopedion is a descriptive term derived from two Greek words: lithos which means stone, and paidion which means child. In other words, when an extrauterine pregnancy has calcified it is known as lithopedion.

A larger abdominal ectopic pregnancy which the body fails to reabsorb and instead calcifies becomes a stone baby. This calcification is in fact the body’s protective response.

The doctors believed that the 1.9-kilogram (4.4-pound) calcified fetus posed no additional risk to the patient, therefore, it can be left untreated. Since it would be more dangerous to operate given her age, so the fetus was left to stay inside her. Meléndez agreed to it. She said that her belly lump reminded her of her husband and their unfulfilled dream of having a child all those years ago.

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Dr. Arsia Hanif has been a meritorious Healthcare professional with a proven track record throughout her academic life securing first position in her MCAT examination and then, in 2017, she successfully completed her Bachelors of Medicine and Surgery from Dow University of Health Sciences. She has had the opportunity to apply her theoretical knowledge to the real-life scenarios, as a House Officer (HO) serving at Civil Hospital. Whilst working at the Civil Hospital, she discovered that nothing satisfies her more than helping other humans in need and since then has made a commitment to implement her expertise in the field of medicine to cure the sick and regain the state of health and well-being. Being a Doctor is exactly what you’d think it’s like. She is the colleague at work that everyone wants to know but nobody wants to be. If you want to get something done, you approach her – everyone knows that! She is currently studying with Medical Council of Canada and aspires to be a leading Neurologist someday. Alongside, she has taken up medical writing to exercise her skills of delivering comprehensible version of the otherwise difficult medical literature. Her breaks comprise either of swimming, volunteering services at a Medical Camp or spending time with family.


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