You think you’re tough? Try removing your own appendix!

I recently came across a fascinating article about a Russian doctor who cut out his own appendix, after being left with no alternative.

During an expedition to the Antarctic, Russian surgeon Leonid Rogozov became seriously ill. He needed an operation – and as the only doctor on the team, he realised he would have to do it himself.

. . .

Rogozov was part of the sixth Soviet Antarctic expedition – a team of 12 had been sent to build a new base at the Schirmacher Oasis.

The Novolazarevskaya Station was up and running by the middle of February 1961, and with their mission complete the group settled down to see out the hostile winter months.

“He was confronted with a very difficult situation of life and death,” says Vladislav. “He could wait for no help, or make an attempt to operate on himself.”

It was not an easy choice. Rogozov knew his appendix could burst and if that happened, it would almost certainly kill him – and while he considered his options, his symptoms got worse.

“He had to open his own abdomen to take his intestines out,” says Vladislav. “He didn’t know if that was humanly possible.”

. . .

Rogozov worked out a detailed plan for how the operation would unfold and assigned his colleagues specific roles and tasks.

He nominated two main assistants to hand him instruments, position the lamp, and hold a mirror – he planned to use the reflection to see what he was doing. The station director was also in the room, in case one of the others became faint.

“He was so systematic he even instructed them what to do if he was losing consciousness – how to inject him with adrenalin and perform artificial ventilation,” says Vladislav. “I don’t think his preparation could have been better.”

A general anaesthetic was out of the question. He was able to administer a local anaesthetic to his abdominal wall but once he had cut through, removing the appendix would have to be done without further pain relief, in order to keep his head as clear as possible.

There’s more at the link.

Click over to the article to read about the surgery and its successful outcome.  It’s a remarkable story.  On his safe return to the Soviet Union some time later, Dr. Rogozov was awarded the Order of the Red Banner of Labor for his accomplishment, and the example he’d set to other adventurers and explorers.  He died in 2000 at the age of 66.



  1. About thirty years ago in the Republic of Korea, weathered in, I (assisted by others) removed a hot appendix in a young lieutenant jg. We draped ponchos above, and laid ponchos below, and were walked through it by an Air Force MD in Osan on the radio. We had very rudimentary medical gear, but we did have a scalpel, some sutcher and some curved needles and a hemostat to pull them. He didn't go septic, a miracle in itself, and his scar wasn't quite strait, but it worked. That's nothing like the story that you cited, but you do what you have to do and hopefully there are people to help you when the chips are down.

  2. Amazing. I read of similar accounts in historical fiction, drawn from older sources, but this … yes, real men to have that courage.

  3. He called home and told them the situation and asked for advice on what to do. They said it was up to him: "Suture self."

  4. I think a female US Navy doctor who was wintering at the South Pole did similar self surgery some years ago.

  5. "He died in 2000 at the age of 66."

    What on earth could suffice to kill a man like that? Did an asteroid fall on him?

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