That self-appendectomy


no cutting remarks please
Photos provided by Dr. Vladislav Rogozov, used by special permission (see below)

So here are the facts: it happened during 6th Soviet Antarctic Expedition at Novolazarevskaya Station. The patient was the only physician on station, so the assistant was a mechanic. It was on April 30, 1961. The operation took 2 hours. He positioned himself so that he could see his own body using a mirror when doing the surgery - he made a 12 cm cut through which he found the appendix. After 5 days the doctor felt good, and after 7 days he removed the wires which had been used to sew up the body. His name: Leonid Rogozov. He published a short note about this in the Soviet Antarctic Expedition Information Bulletin, no. 37, pp. 42-44, 1962.

The above information was provided a while ago by Alex Zaitsev, the Russian exchange scientist I wintered with in 1977. When the bulletins were translated into English, they were compiled in volumes of ten issues; numbers 31-40 were put in Volume 4, so the English reference for Dr. Rogozov's note is Rogozov KI: Self-operation. Soviet Antarctic Expedition Information Bulletin 4:223, 1964, and here is my copy.

Novolazarevskaya is at 70S 11E, set up in 1960-61 on rock (the Shirmacher Oasis) in Queen Maud Land, 50 miles inland from the ice edge. It was closed for a bit in 1992...but more recently it is more commonly known as Novo...the blue ice runway also used by tourist operations is a few miles to the southwest.

more coffee?

Alex told me that a similar surgery happened another time, although he didn't have any information. But later, during the 1983-84 season, someone from his laboratory had an appendectomy during a traverse between Mirny and Dome C....

Credits...the 1962 paper was located by Dr. Ross Hofmeyr, the 2008 winterover physician at SANAE (his April 2008 blog entry). Thanks, Ross! The photos you see here of Dr. Leonid Rogozov during the operation were provided courtesy of his son, Dr. Vladislav Rogozov. The long version of the gory story of the operation later appeared in the British Medical Journal in December 2009...referenced in this March 2011 Atlantic Monthly article.