June 25, 2024

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Why do doctors have to remove the appendix before leaving for Antarctica?

Why do doctors have to remove the appendix before leaving for Antarctica?

Appendix removal is mandatory for doctors visiting Antarctica during the winter. The reason is very simple. There is usually only one doctor at each station in the winter, and evacuating him in an emergency is impossible.

In 1951, Jack Starr, the chef of Heard Island Station, was operated on for appendicitis by Dr. Otto Rick and all went well. But what happens when a doctor finds himself in a situation where he needs to remove his appendix?

In 1961, Dr. Leonid Rogozov was at the Novolazarevskaya Soviet base when he was diagnosed with appendicitis. None of the other stations could help, and on April 30, Rogozov recognized signs of peritonitis when a storm swept through the station. Being the only doctor on the base, he had no choice but to operate on himself.

Using local anesthetic, a mirror, and the help of two base personnel, he made the first incision at 22:15 Moscow time.

I often had to raise my head to feel better and sometimes work without looking, just by the feel of my hands. My weakness became severe after 30-40 minutes and I felt dizzy, so I had to take frequent breaks. After removing the process, I administered antibiotics into the cavity and sutured the wound. The operation was completed at midnight.

Rogozov was lucky and in just two days he was back to his duties normally. He lived for several more decades until his death in 2000. But his condition became a “lesson” for Antarctic expeditions and now extensive medical examinations and appendix removal by doctors have become the new standard for winter expeditions.

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