Varsha Sena is 2 years old, but in January the Indian infant underwent major surgery to remove a third leg protruding from her back, the Hindustan Times reported.
Varsha was born with polymelia, an extremely rare birth defect that causes extra limbs, which are usually shrunken or deformed, the Mirror reported.
“There are two accepted hypotheses as to why polymelia occurs. Sometimes an embryo starts developing as conjoined twins and one twin is disintegrated except for just the extra limbs,” explained Dr. Daljit Singh, the lead surgeon. “Or, in other cases, extra number of limb buds, from which our hands and legs grow, start developing due to an anomaly and give rise to additional limbs.”
Varsha’s mother, 24-year-old Komal Sena, said she was concerned when her daughter was born. “When the doctor gave her to me, I noticed that there was a small growth from her lower back. I was scared and confused,” she said.
Doctors initially told the family that it would take three or four years to get Varsha into surgery, so they took her to the state-run Govind Ballabh Pant hospital.
“It was good that the family brought her here. The limb was the size of the ring finger when the child was born, but, had grown 10-12 inches in two years, almost the size of her hand,” Singh said. “If the family had waited longer, the limb would have outgrown the other legs and impair their functioning. It might have also resulted in a spinal cord defect which might have compromised her control over bladder and bowel movements.”
Singh added that this was the first known instance of polymelia where the extra limb was developed into the spinal cord.
“We had to plan the procedure carefully to save the part of the spine that had gone into the additional leg because if that got affected, it would have resulted in lower body paralysis,” Singh said.
Varsha is now recovering from surgery. “She used to play with the growth. Now, that it is gone she just keeps putting her hand behind looking for it,” Komal said.