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Spectrum of human tails: A report of six cases.
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MedLine Citation:
PMID:  22279360     Owner:  NLM     Status:  PubMed-not-MEDLINE    
Human tail is a curiosity, a cosmetic stigma and presents as an appendage in the lumbosacral region. Six patients of tail in the lumbosacral region are presented here to discuss the spectrum of presentation of human tails. The embryology, pathology and treatment of this entity are discussed along with a brief review of the literature.
Biswanath Mukhopadhyay; Ram M Shukla; Madhumita Mukhopadhyay; Kartik C Mandal; Pankaj Haldar; Abhijit Benare
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Type:  Journal Article    
Journal Detail:
Title:  Journal of Indian Association of Pediatric Surgeons     Volume:  17     ISSN:  1998-3891     ISO Abbreviation:  J Indian Assoc Pediatr Surg     Publication Date:  2012 Jan 
Date Detail:
Created Date:  2012-01-26     Completed Date:  2012-10-02     Revised Date:  2013-05-29    
Medline Journal Info:
Nlm Unique ID:  101179870     Medline TA:  J Indian Assoc Pediatr Surg     Country:  India    
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Languages:  eng     Pagination:  23-5     Citation Subset:  -    
Department of Pediatric Surgery, N R S Medical College, Kolkata, India.
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Journal Information
Journal ID (nlm-ta): J Indian Assoc Pediatr Surg
Journal ID (publisher-id): JIAPS
ISSN: 0971-9261
ISSN: 1998-3891
Publisher: Medknow Publications & Media Pvt Ltd, India
Article Information
Copyright: © Journal of Indian Association of Pediatric Surgeons
Print publication date: Season: Jan-Mar Year: 2012
Volume: 17 Issue: 1
First Page: 23 Last Page: 25
ID: 3263034
PubMed Id: 22279360
Publisher Id: JIAPS-17-23
DOI: 10.4103/0971-9261.91082

Spectrum of human tails: A report of six cases
Biswanath Mukhopadhyayaff1
Ram M. Shuklaaff1
Madhumita Mukhopadhyay1
Kartik C. Mandalaff1
Pankaj Haldaraff1
Abhijit Benareaff1
Department of Pediatric Surgery, N R S Medical College, Kolkata, India
1Department of Pathology, Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research, Kolkata, West Bengal, India
Correspondence: Address for correspondence: Prof. Biswanath Mukhopadhyay, 7E, Dinobandhu Mukherjee Lane, Sibpur, Howrah - 711 102, West Bengal, India. E-mail:


Human tails are a rare entity. The birth of a baby with a tail can cause tremendous psychological disturbance to the parents. They are usually classified as true and pseudo tails.[1] Tails are usually associated with occult spinal dysraphism.[2] Isolated case reports of various types of human tails have been described in the literature.[3] We are presenting our experience of six cases of tails in infants.


The age range of patients varied from 3 days to 2 years. The male to female ratio was 2:1. The family history was not significant in any of the patients. The antenatal history of the mothers was normal. There was no movement or contraction of tails in our patients. The main features and imaging findings of six patients have been summarised in Table 1. The plain radiographs showed spina bifida in three patients at L 5 and S 1.

Other than patient number 5 (lumbar lipomeningomyelocele), all other patients underwent surgical excision. An elliptical incision was made encircling the base of the appendage. No connection with the spine was seen. The patient with meningocele had formal repair of the meningocele. A complete excision of the sacrococcygeal teratoma was done. The postoperative result was excellent. The parents of patient number 5 refused to give consent for the operation and the patient was lost to follow-up.

On histopathological examination, the specimen of sacrococcygeal teratoma showed mature tissues that included bones, cartilage, fat and neural tissues, whereas other tails showed mature adipose tissue, blood vessels and nerves.


A “vestigial tail” describes a remnant of a structure found in embryonic life or in ancestral forms.[4] During the 5th to 6th week of intrauterine life, the human embryo has a tail with 10–12 vertebrae. By 8 weeks, the human tail disappears. The persistent tail probably arises from the distal nonvertebrate remnant of the embryonic tail.[5] True human tail arises from the most distal remnant of the embryonic tail. It contains adipose tissue, connective tissue, central bundles of striated muscle, blood vessels and nerves and is covered by skin. Bone, cartilage, notochord and spinal cord are lacking. It can move and contract and occurs twice as often in males as in females. None of our patients showed any movement of the tail. Unlike the tail of other vertebrates, human tails do not contain vertebral structures. Only one case has been reported with vertebra in human tail.[6] A true tail is easily removed surgically, without residual effects. It is rarely familial.[1] Pseudo tails have got superficial resemblance to true tails. They are anomalous prolongation of the coccygeal vertebrae. The additional lesions found with pseudo tails are lipomas, teratomas, chondromegaly and gliomas, and there may be elongated parasitic fetus.[1] Human tail usually occurs in the lumbosacral region, but it has also been reported in the cervical region.[7] Teratoma in the human tail has also been reported.[8] In a review series of 48 skin-covered lumbosacral masses, 25% had lumbosacral and sacrococcygeal teratomas.[9] In our series, we had only one patient with tail in sacrococcygeal teratoma.

The preoperative assessment includes a complete clinical examination including neurology, plain radiographs of the spine and computed tomography or magnetic resonance imaging. An occult spinal lesion has been reported in around 50% of the cases.[2] In another review by Lu, 20% of the cases are associated with either meningocele or spina bifida occulta.[10] Other than the patient of lipomyelomeningocele, none of our patients showed intraspinal lesion.


Source of Support: Nil

Conflict of Interest: None declared.

1. Dao AH,Netsky MG. Human tails and pseudo tailsHum PatholYear: 198415449536373560
2. Singh DK,Kumar B,Sinha VD,Bagaria HR. The human tail: A rare lesion with a occult spinal dysraphism- A case reportJ Pediatr SurgYear: 200843E41318778987
3. Chakrabortty S,Oi S,Yoshida Y,Yamada H,Yamaguchi M,Tamaki N,et al. Myelomeningocele and thick filum terminale with tethered cord appearing as a human tailJ NeurosurgYear: 19937896698487080
4. Belzberg AJ,Myles ST,Trevner CL. The human tail and spinal dysraphismJ Pediatr SurgYear: 199126124351779337
5. Zimmer EZ,Bronshtein M. Early sonographic findings suggestive of human fetal tailPrenat DiagnYear: 19961636028734814
6. Kabra NS,Srinivasan G,Udani RH. True tail in a neonateIndian PediatrYear: 199936712310740312
7. Mohindra S. The ‘human tail’ causing tethered cervical cordSpinal CordYear: 200745583517102810
8. Park SH,Huh JS,Cho KH,Shin YS,Kim SH,Ahn YH,et al. Teratoma in human tail lipomaPediatr NeurosurgYear: 2005411586115995336
9. Mc Lone DG,Naidich TP. Terminal myelocystoceleNeurosurgeryYear: 19851636433883218
10. Lu FL,Wang PJ,Teng RJ,Yau KI. The human tailPediatr NeurolYear: 19981923039806144


[Figure ID: F1]
Figure 1 

Tail in the midline of lumbar region

[Figure ID: F2]
Figure 2 

Tail in the left side of the buttock, away from the midline

[Figure ID: F3]
Figure 3 

Tail in the midline of lumbar region

[Figure ID: F4]
Figure 4 

Tail in the midline of lumbar region

[Figure ID: F5]
Figure 5 

Tail in the midline of lumbar region (lipomyelomeningocele)

[Figure ID: F6]
Figure 6 

Sacrococcygeal teratoma with tail, away from the midline

[TableWrap ID: T1] Table 1 

Summary of main features and imaging findings of all patients

Article Categories:
  • Case Report

Keywords: KEY WORDS Human tail, lipomyelomeningocele, sacrococcygeal teratoma, spina bifida.

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