BALTIMORE -- Doctors at Johns Hopkins Hospital removed a rare tumour that contained several fully grown teeth from a baby boy's brain.
The tumour was found in the then-four-month-old from West Virginia in 2012 after a pediatrician noticed his head was unusually large for his age.
Doctors wrote about the findings in an article that appeared this week in the New England Journal of Medicine. The discovery could help researchers trying to cure diseases or grow new organs, medical experts said.
"It gives us more insight into the origins of the tumour," said Dr. Edward Ahn, a pediatric neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins who was the lead surgeon.
The tumour found in the child was a craniopharyngioma, a rare mass found mostly in young children that can press up against the pituitary gland and optic nerve and cause pressure in the brain, the National Institutes of Health said.
Only five other cases in medical literature found teeth in these types of tumours, Ahn said.
Teeth are more commonly found in another kind of tumour, teratomas. Doctors have found many bodily structures, including fingers and even partially formed humans, in teratomas because their cells have the ability to form any kind of cell type or organ system within the tumour mass, said Dr. James T. Rutka, a pediatric neurosurgeon and chair of the University of Toronto's department of surgery who was not involved in the Maryland case.
"If they are absolutely certain this is a craniopharyngioma, it would be way less common" to have teeth or any body part, said Rutka, a past president of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons.
The baby's mother said she took her son to the pediatrician for a stuffy nose. Doctors discovered the boy's head had grown significantly from two weeks before when it was measured during a routine visit. An ultrasound and CT scan revealed the massive tumour.
"The tumour was very large and the baby was so small," Ahn said. "To do this type of surgery on a four-month-old baby is extremely risky, but something we had to do right away."
The baby's mother said: "It was absolutely terrifying. It is the scariest thing I have ever gone through."
Craniopharyngioma tumours are formed from the lining of the brain or back of the mouth and often have calcium inside but not organized into teeth, Rutka said.
Ahn said more research is needed on craniopharyngioma tumours to determine why teeth sometimes form.
-- The Baltimore Sun