Medicine

This Russian Surgeon Removed His Own Appendix

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Picture this: you're a 27 year old on an Antarctic expedition to build a Soviet base in the early 1960s when you feel a stabbing, nausea-inducing pain on the right side of your midsection. It's a sure sign of acute appendicitis. The good news? You're a doctor. The terrible, horrible, no good, very bad news? You're the only doctor at your station, and the ship that left you there won't return for a year.

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The Little Appendix That Couldn't

This nightmare scenario was Russian surgeon Leonid Rogozov's reality while on the sixth Soviet Antarctic expedition to build a base at the Schirmacher Oasis. The new Novolazarevskaya Station was finished in February, but by April, Rogozov was in a life or death situation. He realized that the only person who could perform the surgery he desperately needed was himself. Vladislav, Rogozov's son, retold the story to the BBC"He had to open his own abdomen to take his intestines out. He didn't know if it that was humanly possible." Even beyond the considerable personal costs, there were also political risks. The surgeon had to get approval from Moscow to attempt the surgery, since botching it would shed a negative light on the Soviet expedition during the Cold War. Not a great time to fail an auto-appendectomy, Rogozov.

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How'd it go? Rogozov assigned different tasks to his colleagues. They handed him instruments, held up a mirror, and made sure no one else fainted. Vladislav notes that he was very systematic and prepared for all potential outcomes. Rogozov even administered his own local anesthetic and performed the entire two-hour surgery without losing consciousness. But, he finally found the source of his pain. As Rogozov reports in his diary, "Finally, here it is, the cursed appendage! With horror I notice the dark stain at its base. That means just a day longer and it would have burst." But, it didn't—Rogozov's self-surgery was a success.

What A Man, What A Man

According to the BBC, Rogozov returned to Russia a hero and his unfortunate medical issue became fodder for Soviet propaganda. Rogozov was awarded the Order of the Red Banner of Labour and was even compared to the first man in space, Yuri Gagarin. But what's the most impressive part of this story? He went back to work just two weeks later. Now that's dedication.

Related: Why Would A Patient End Up With Three Kidneys?

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Key Facts In This Video

  1. Dr. Evan O'Neill Kane removed his own appendix to prove you could perform the surgery with only local anesthesia. 02:07

  2. Ines Ramierez Parez performed a Cesarean section on herself. 06:31

  3. Sampson Parker had to amputate his arm when hand got caught in a combine. 09:31

Is Your Appendix Actually Useless?

While it's not necessary for our survival, the appendix is a safe house for good bacteria.

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Key Facts In This Video

  1. Many textbooks suggest that the appendix is nothing more than a vestigial organ, something that used to serve a purpose but now is useless. 00:29

  2. In a study out of Duke University states that the appendix is a safe house for good bacteria. 00:46

  3. An overreactive immune system can lead to obstruction of the intestines, which in turns leads to appendicitis. 01:33

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