Science & Technology

At the polar night of 1961, a Soviet surgeon took out his appendix.

Leonid Rogozov was clearly aware of the signs of appendicitis. After all, the 27-year-old Soviet surgeon had already seen it many times. But this time, there were some big problems. First of all, the diagnosis was made in Antarctica during the winter and was completely isolated from the outside world. Second, there was no doctor at the place other than Rogozov. Finally (and this was the biggest problem) — the patient was Rogozov himself.

“You can’t join hands and give up.”

Rogozov arrived in Antarctica at the end of 1960. He was one of twelve men tasked with building a Soviet base in Antarctica. Just before the polar night arrived, they ended just in time, resulting in sub-zero temperatures and massive snowstorms. Everything about the expedition seemed to be going well until something went very wrong.

Soviet surgeons quickly realized that they were suffering from appendicitis, an inflammation of the appendix that required surgery. Without surgery, appendicitis can be fatal, and Rogozov was very familiar with it.

A young doctor interrupted a promising research career for the Antarctic expedition. When he set out for a thrilling Antarctic expedition, he was mostly defending his dissertation on new ways to operate on cancer of the esophagus. Surgery for appendicitis was a simple procedure and if the patient was someone else, Rogozov had no problem.

There was no escape from the base. Due to the snowstorm, the flight was out of the question and no ship entered or exited Antarctica until the end of winter.

Rogozov tried to be a knight about it. He wrote in his diary:

“It’s like appendicitis. I’m quiet about it and even smiling. Why scare my friends? Who can help? The only encounter with polar explorer medicine is , Most likely in the dentist’s chair. “

He also tried to see if he could treat himself with antibiotics, but that didn’t help much. The next day, his fever rose, the pain became intolerable, and vomiting became common. The next night was like hell, and it made him understand that there is only one possible way out of this situation: to operate on himself and to remove his own appendix.

“I couldn’t sleep at all last night. It hurts like a devil! A snowstorm that blows through my soul, crying like a hundred jackals. I don’t have any obvious symptoms of an imminent perforation, but I have a repressive premonition. It depends, “Logozov wrote in his diary.

“. .. This is .. .. I have to think of the only possible way: manipulating myself .. .. It’s almost impossible. .. .. But giving up with arms crossed can not.”

Things didn’t get much better the next day. Rogozov could no longer hide his condition from other members

“18.30. I’ve never felt so terrible in my life. The building is shaking like a little toy in a storm. Everyone knows. They come to calm me. And I I’m angry with myself — I’ve ruined everyone’s holiday. Tomorrow is May Day. And now everyone is running around and preparing for the autoclave. I need to disinfect my bedding because I’m going to have surgery. I have.”

“20.30. It’s getting worse. I told everyone. Now they’ll start taking everything we don’t need out of the room.”

The surgery was performed in an instant space in Rogozov’s room. His fellow workers cleaned everything from the room and disinfected it according to the doctor’s instructions. Two tables, a bed and a table lamp were left behind, and the room was flooded with UV light to destroy as many pathogens as possible.

Next, Rogozov explained how the operation worked and delegated the task. A colleague gave him an instrument. The other holds a mirror and adjusts the table lamp. The other stands in reserve in case nausea overcomes the two helpers. Rogozov instructed the team to inject the drug and use a syringe specially prepared for mechanical ventilation in case he fainted, as he would perform the surgery himself. He disinfected his assistant, put on gloves, and sat in bed, reclining at about 30 degrees. Operation was set to start around 2 am local time.

Rogozov first injected the anesthetic and made an incision 15 minutes later. It wasn’t perfect — his vision was imperfect, his position was unpleasant, and he was enthusiastic. He worked without gloves, so he could feel the instrument better. About 30 minutes after surgery, he began to suffer from nausea and dizziness and had to take a few short breaks. He sweated hard and had to ask his assistant to wipe his forehead every few minutes. Finally, he managed to reach the appendix and remove it — the appendix was severely inflamed and surgery was his only chance of survival. If the day is longer, it will rupture and the surgeon will die. After removing it, he applied antibiotics and closed the wound. The entire operation lasted 1 hour and 45 minutes and was unbearable. As one of his assistants wrote in his diary:

“When Rogozov made an incision when he removed the appendix and was manipulating his internal organs, his intestines rang. This was very unpleasant for us. It turned people back. I ran away and made me not want to see, but I stayed holding my head. Artemev and Teplinsky also kept their place, but later it both caused considerable dizziness and fainting. It turned out that he was approaching .. .. Rogozov himself was calm and focused on his work [..] The operation ended with
4 am local time. In the end, Rogozov was very pale and obviously tired, but he finished it all. “

Before taking some sleeping pills, Rogozov instructed his assistant how to wash and disinfect the equipment and room. Then he went to sleep after his own surgery.


When Rogozov awoke, his fever dropped to 38.1 ° C (100 F) and he felt a little better. He continued to take antibiotics for 4 days and recovered slowly. His fever slowly diminished, and a week later he removed the seams. Within two weeks he was fully recovered. He later remembered how the surgery was performed from his point of view.

“I didn’t allow myself to think about anything other than the work in front of me. I had to train myself, work hard, and clench my teeth.”

“My poor assistant! At the last minute I saw them: they stood there with their surgical whites whiter than their own whites. I was scared too. But needles with novocaines When I picked it up and gave it my first injection, it somehow automatically switched to operating mode and I didn’t notice anything else from that point on. “

After that, work continued normally at the station, and about a year later, Rogozov returned to Leningrad (now St. Petersburg). He successfully defended his dissertation, the General Surgery Department of the First Leningrad Institute of Medicine. He never returned to Antarctica.

It is not entirely clear if Rogozov was the only one to take out his appendix. There are several other such cases referenced in the literature. Dr. Evan Kane in 1921I believed that some surgeries, such as appendectomy, did not require complete anesthesia. He performed appendectomy to prove his claim, but it was his assistant who completed the surgery. Rogozov was unaware of this event.

But the fact that Rogozov was able to perform surgery in the wilderness at times of great distress without the help of specialists is a surprising feat. It shows great willpower and medical ability, and Rogozov rejected the glory of this certificate, but it is definitely for history books.

At the polar night of 1961, a Soviet surgeon took out his appendix. At the polar night of 1961, a Soviet surgeon took out his appendix.

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