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Mermaid Syndrome - General Info

Mermaid syndrome medically known as sirenomelia is a rare congenital deformity which features with fusion of legs. This fusion makes the legs resemble a mermaid's tail hence the name of the condition. Sirenomelia affects one in 100.000 babies and it usually causes lethal outcome a few days after the baby is born. The death is caused by abnormalities of kidneys and urinary bladder.

This syndrome is highly lethal and many patients do not live long after the birth. There are several reported survivors of this syndrome who lived up to certain age. All of them are female. The first girl was born in 1999 and lived until 2009. The other girl was born in 1980. This girl did not have to face only fusion of her legs. She was also suffering from absence of bladder (she was born without the bladder). She was subjected to several surgeries which tried to take care of the leg fusion and problems related to her internal organs.

Causes of Mermaid Syndrome

Mermaid syndrome occurs due to abnormal development of the umbilical cord blood vessels. Normally umbilical cord contains two umbilical arteries and one umbilical vein. In sirenomelia there is one of each. Even if there are two arteries one of them is blocked. This is what causes improper development of legs and prevent their separation.

The condition may be caused by certain illnesses which affect either the mother or the fetus, improper and poor prenatal care by the expectant mother and there is also a theory that genetic abnormalities may be a culprit of this syndrome.

Presentations of Mermaid Syndrome

Apart from fusion of the legs babies with mermaid syndrome may also suffer from additional abnormalities including malformation of kidneys and internal or external genitalia. What is more, the large intestine is usually misplaced within the abdomen and there are also cases which feature with absence of anus so there is no opening for the large intestine. Not all the babies suffer from the same symptoms and there are mild cases and severe forms of the disease.

In mild mermaid syndrome there is typical fusion of the legs bit the fusion is only limited to the skin. In these children the feet and all three main bones of the legs can be fully developed. This type of mermaid syndrome can be successfully treated with surgery.

On the other hand, severe mermaid syndrome features with complete fusion of the lower extremities and malformation of all structures of the legs. Normal structure of the feet is missing and instead of three there are only two main bones in the extremity. In severe form of the disease the baby suffers from additional abnormalities connected to the intestine, bladder, and genital tract.

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