Less than one in ten thousand individuals are born with a congenital disorder known as situs inversus totalis. This disorder was first recognized in 1643 by anatomist Marco Severino. A common way of discovering this disorder occurs when a doctor searches for a heart beat on the left, but finds it on the right.
Situs inversus totalis causes the major organs to switch sides of the body. The heart is on the right side, the liver and gall bladder are on the left side, and even the intestines are mirrored! This can cause a number of issues, many of which are simply caused by added time in diagnosis. When a medical emergency arises and a patient with situs inversus cannot communicate, their organs will be found after a longer (and somewhat strange) search. Some choose to simply wear a medical bracelet indicating the condition.
But an additional problem stems from transplantation. Some organs, like the heart and liver, are not symmetrical. If you, for example, were to find a heart donor that did not have situs inversus, their heart would not fit correctly. This requires extra steps such as artificial graft material to bring connections together that don’t occur anywhere else. Dr. Niloo Edwards, of University of Wisconsin Hospital, performed such a procedure and claimed:
“It’s certainly one of the most unique transplants I have done. At the end of all this rewiring — it sort of looked like the inside of a 1970s Cadillac — there were sort of pipes and tubes running in different directions where they shouldn’t be.”
The most fascinating part of this condition relies on the lack of complications outside of medical emergencies. Until surgery needs to be performed for a different condition, the mirrored organs function just as well.