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Scientists Remove “Ball and Chain” Tail from Baby Born in Brazil


Doctors made a surprising discovery in Brazil after a baby was born with a 12-centimeter-long tail. The appendage had a long ball on the end, with scientists calling it a “true human tail”.

The child was delivered at Albert Sabin Children’s Hospital in the city of Fortaleza. The appendage is being referred to as a “rare congenital anomaly,” according to the case study recently published in the Journal of Pediatric Case Surgery Reports.

Luckily, the tail was removed, and the child should be able to live life with just four limbs instead of five.

A Mysterious Condition

Researchers say the mother was considered healthy before she gave birth. She didn’t drink alcohol or use drugs, but she did smoke around 10 cigarettes a day during her pregnancy. She experienced one urinary tract infection during her first trimester, which was treated with antibiotics.

She delivered the child prematurely at just 35 weeks via vaginal surgery. According to the original assessment of the child, they were jaundiced with a human tail with a ball at the end of it.

As it turns out, growing a tail in the womb is fairly normal.

Most babies will grow a small tail in the womb around the fourth week of gestation, but it usually goes away by the eight week, eventually morphing into the tail bone, also known as the coccyx.

For some reason, the child’s tail didn’t fade away.

Doctors noted the child had a 6-inch posterior protuberance with a 1.5 inch-wide ball at the tip, resembling a medieval mace.

There have only been 40 documented instances of babies born with tails throughout history.

Doctors tested the child’s tail to see if it was neurologically connected to the nervous system. When the test came back negative, they took the baby into the operating room and successfully removed the tail via surgery.

A post-surgery analysis of the tail shows that it was comprised of boneless tissue with the ball on the end being made of fat and embryonic connective tissue.     

The case study says that human tails can fall into two categories: true tails and pseudo-tails.

According to the authors, true human tails, “represent the persistence of a remnant of the embryonic tail formed between the fourth and eighth week of gestation, being composed of adipose and connective tissue, blood vessels, muscle and nerve fibers.”

On the other hand, “Pseudo-tails are protuberances basically composed of adipose or cartilaginous tissue and the presence of bone elements.”

Experts say some people may think their baby was born with a true tail, but most are not real. Instead, they are usually a symptom of a tailbone abnormality or spina bifida.

Many historians believe that humans once had a tail, but as our species evolved over time, we no longer needed the organ. NewScientist estimates that our ape ancestors shed the tail around 25 million years ago.

In some cultures and societies, a human tail is considered holy.

The authors of the case study included advice for providers that encounter such abnormalities.

They wrote that, “The presence of a true human tail in neonates is a rare congenital anomaly and should be investigated through physical and radiological examinations in a comprehensive manner.”

“Due to the common ectodermal origin between the skin and the central nervous system, it is essential that the pediatrician or pediatric surgeon investigate the presence of hidden spinal dysraphism in patients with suspected skin lesions, as they may be the only visible abnormality and early diagnosis can prevent evolution to severe neurological changes,” they added in the report.

Other than wanting to give the child a normal life, it’s not clear why the doctors decided to remove the tail. The child may have been in pain, or it may have been removed at the family’s request.

Steven Briggs
Steven Briggs is a healthcare writer for Scrubs Magazine, hailing from Brooklyn, NY. With both of his parents working in the healthcare industry, Steven writes about the various issues and concerns facing the industry today.

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