An 11-month-old baby born with three legs just went through a 10-hour surgery that removed his extra limb. It was found out that the extra leg belonged to his parasitic twin, which his mother didn't know about when she was still pregnant since she skipped routine prenatal visits.
The baby, nicknamed Xiao Fei, had his extra limb amputated at a Shanghai hospital, as reported by Chinese news site People's Daily Online (via the Sun). The baby and his family hail from Xinjiang in western China but traveled all the way to Shanghai, specifically at the Shanghai Public Health Clinical Center, for treatment.
Doctors were successful with the marathon operation yesterday, but according to Professor Chen Qiu, who treated Xiao Fei, the baby should have been brought to the hospital earlier since addressing the problem at a younger age will give a better chance at recovery.
The little boy is now doing well after surgery, but doctors say he still needs to undergo corrective treatment for many years. Dr. Chen described the surgery as "highly complicated." The third leg had to be removed because it didn't function.
Xiao Fei's right leg was also deformed; the foot had the shape of a hand. It cannot function properly, but doctors say the child can still keep it. The overall procedure involved amputating the middle leg as well as cutting the foot on the right leg. The foot from the middle leg will then be transplanted on to the child's right leg.
The little boy wasn't sedated that long just to have his parasitic limb removed. Xiao Fei also had other medical conditions, which include an abdominal hernia, congenital heart disease, and an undescended testicle -- all of which added to the challenge of the surgery. During the same 10-hour operation, doctors brought the child's right testicle from the abdomen down to its usual place.
Xiao Fei's condition occurs when identical twin embryos do not separate. As to why this happens, no one knows, but experts have a theory that it's caused by a restriction of blood supply to the womb during the woman's pregnancy, according to Live Science, citing a 2008 scientific report on the subject.
The successful surgery may allow Xiao Fei to lead a normal life, but he may need to have more operations when he's old enough, Chen said.
"This is just the start. The child will require a lot of long-term corrective treatment. At the same time, his congenital heart condition will also require surgery to treatment, so there will be a long road ahead for his family."
The boy is also missing his kneecaps, so he will need surgery for that as well, hospital director Zhu Tongyu said.