Mermaid syndrome is a rare birth defect in which the lower limbs of the fetus are fused together. This syndrome has been named so because of its resemblance to mermaid, the mythical creature that is a subject of talk for many storytellers. Most cases of this congenital abnormality are lethal.
Some of babies who survive may require immediate multiple reconstruction surgeries. Even after surgery the chances of survival are bleak. The condition is also known as sirennomelia. Usually the fetus is born dead but reports of 300 hundred live births have been claimed all over the world.
What Causes Mermaid Syndrome?
Since the condition is very rare, therefore scientists are not able to do much research on mermaid syndrome. The exact etiology of this syndrome still remains unknown. There are few conditions that are believed to be responsible for it such as;
- A woman suffering from major illness during the period of pregnancy.
- Mutations of genes leading to genetic disorders. It can be from the mothers or fathers genes.
- Researchers also believe it to be due to exposure to environmental factors. Exposure to radiations, toxins etc can lead to gene mutation. This can be a cause for both legs getting fused together.
- Improper care during prenatal stage of pregnancy.
- Both physical and mental stress is believed to have harmful effect on fetal development. It is also suspected to cause such congenital problems.
Signs And Symptoms Of Mermaid Syndrome
It would not have been much of a problem in mermaid syndrome if the baby had only fused limbs. However, most babies born with this syndrome have many associated anomalies with other body structures. Absence of genitals or malformed genitals, abnormality of spine or absence of spine, absence of kidneys, bladder is common. Imperforate anal opening and abnormality in lower gastrointestinal tract are also common.
The symptoms also vary with the severity of mermaid syndrome. A baby with mermaid syndrome in its mild form may have fused legs at the ankle or only the extent of skin may be attached between the legs. The bones of legs are completely developed. In its severe form, the legs are malformed and may have only two bones. The feet are absent and the lower end of leg is tapering.
Treatment For Mermaid Syndrome
Most the babies having mermaid syndrome are stillborn. If they are born alive, it is very difficult for them to survive. The only option available for treating such babies is reconstruction surgery. However, it is a difficult task in many cases.
Some babies may have fused legs and also have inseparable blood vessels and other structures. Surgery in such babies is difficult and it is sometimes impossible. Even if surgery is performed, the fatality rate is very high. If the child is fortunate to survive the surgery, he may lead a disabled life for not more than few years.
Till now only two cases of survival have been noted, Tiffany Yorks and Milagros Cerron. Both were born with mermaid syndrome. Both had to survive with numerous complications after multiple surgeries meant to separate fused legs and various other malformations.