Dr. Leonid Rogozov Operating Himself to Remove His Appendix in Antarctica, 1961

In 1961, Dr. Leonid Rogozov, a Soviet general practitioner, took part in a Soviet Antarctic Expidition. So when on the morning of April 29, 1961, Rogozov experienced weakness, nausea and moderate fever, and later developed pain in the lower right portion of the abdomen, he knew he had acute appendicitis and something had to be done if he was to survive.

Since he was the only doctor stationed at the Novolazarevskaya Station at the time, he had to perform an appendectomy on himself, a famous case of self-surgery.

Rogozov wrote in his diary:

“It seems that I have appendicitis. I am keeping quiet about it, even smiling. Why frighten my friends? Who could be of help? A polar explorer’s only encounter with medicine is likely to have been in a dentist’s chair”.

Dr Leonid Rogozov 1

Available conservative treatment was perfomed – antibiotics, local cooling – but the patient’s general condition was getting worse: his body temperature rose, vomiting became more frequent.

“I did not sleep at all last night. It hurts like the devil! A snowstorm whipping through my soul, wailing like a hundred jackals. Still no obvious symptoms that perforation is imminent, but an oppressive feeling of foreboding hangs over me… This is it… I have to think through the only possible way out: to operate on myself…It’s almost impossible…but I can’t just fold my arms and give up”.

Dr Leonid Rogozov 2

Rogozov had no option but to perform the surgery on himself. With the help of a driver and meteorologist, who were providing instruments and holding a mirror to observe areas not directly visible, Rogozov started the surgery while in a semi-reclining position, half-turned to his left side.

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