After noticing a baby’s head was growing unusually fast for its age, surgeons were eventually led to an unbelievably rare medical condition: a brain tumor with fully formed teeth.
Reporting in The New England Journal of Medicine back in 2014, neurosurgeons from the University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins Children's Center in Baltimore carried out an MRI brain scan of the 4-month-old infant.
The scans revealed the presence of a walnut-sized tumor, which also appeared to have multiple small structures along its right side (image below). The baby was quickly operated on to have the tumor removed. The growth itself turned out to be a craniopharyngioma, a rare form of brain tumor derived from pituitary gland embryonic tissue. The tumors are typically found in young children, although they can also occur in adults. They are found near the pituitary gland, which is a hormone regulating gland found right at the bottom of the brain. They are benign, meaning they are non-cancerous and do not usually spread, but they can cause problems with hormones due to their close proximity to the pituitary gland
However, this was just the beginning of the case’s unusual features. During brain surgery, the surgeons discovered the tumor was embedded with “multiple fully formed teeth.”
Tumors with teeth are usually known as teratomas, which can often contain several different types of tissue, such as hair, muscle, or bone. However, it’s not clear how or why the teeth ended up in the craniopharyngioma.
“It's not every day you see teeth in any type of tumor in the brain. In a craniopharyngioma, it's unheard of,” said Dr Narlin Beaty, a neurosurgeon at the University of Maryland Medical Center, who performed the surgery, speaking to Live Science.
The tumor was removed and, remarkably, the child made a steady recovery in the months following the surgery. However, he continued to suffer from treatable hormone problems and receives thyroid and adrenal hormone-replacement therapy. Dr Beaty added that the teeth were sent to a pathologist for further research and the tissue samples have been kept for other scientists to investigate in the future.
“He is making good developmental progress, and as part of his follow-up, he currently undergoes routine MRI,” the case report concludes.