Nagabushanam (23), a domestic help from Pallipadu near Nellore, was born with a tumour in her left eye. She grew up with the condition and over the years, the tumour, around four cm in diameter, pushed up her eye ball, resulting in loss of sight.

Last Thursday, M. Subhashini, head of orbit and oculoplasty at the Government Eye Hospital, led a team of four surgeons and an anaesthetist to conduct a two-hour-long surgery to remove the tumour.

“The condition is called teratoma and it can happen in any part of the body. In Nagabushanam’s case, it struck her eye. We excised the tumour but were surprised to see two teeth in it. Usually such tumours are benign but we have sent it to the pathology department to confirm that the tumour is not malignant,” Dr. Subhashini said.

The tumour has been removed and doctors have assured Nagabushanam it will not recur. Her face will regain its normal appearance as time passes, but full vision will not return. “She can see up to two metres now. Had she come earlier, she would not have lost her sight,” said K. Vasantha, director of the hospital.

Across the world, five cases of orbital teratoma have been reported in medical journals, doctors said. “A teratoma is a mass of tissue that contains cysts. We read about a case where a patient was reported to have tooth-like tissue in the tumour. In Nagabushanam’s case, there were two fully formed teeth. It is very rare,” Dr. Vasantha said.

“Normally, we do not require blood transfusion for eye surgeries, but in this case, we had to use a unit of blood,” she said, adding this was the first time they came across such a case at the hospital.

The woman may never have sought treatment for her condition prior to the surgery, doctors said. “As a child, she may have visited a doctor who could have provided symptomatic treatment. As we did not find any scars, we believe she has not had any surgery,” she said.

The hospital proposes to report this rare surgery in the Indian Journal of Ophthalmology.