Without an Operation Will a Prepper Survive Appendicitis?

abdominal pain

Without an Operation, will you Survive?  It’s an important question for preppers.  They know surgeons are going to be hard to find during prolonged disasters.  So can a person survive appendicitis without an operation?

The problem treating appendicitis confronted a lone surgeon stationed at a remote outpost in the South Pole years ago.  He’d come down with the disease and decided to take his own out using mirrors and a couple of assistants.  Ballsy for sure, but a little impractical for the rest of us.

What is Appendicitis?

No one is quite sure what the appendix is for, let alone why we get appendicitis.  But we do know when this hollow tube becomes obstructed, bacteria multiply and have no way of getting out.  Consequently the appendix becomes inflamed, and as it swells, it progressively irritates the lining of the lower abdominal cavity.  Usually beginning with tenderness around the belly button, the pain slowly radiates to the lower right quadrant of the abdomen.  From there it commonly spreads widely, until the person is tender from the rib cage down.

It’s important to note that in most cases, the pain of appendicitis proceeds vomiting.  If vomiting appears first, then it’s much less likely the person has appendicitis.


As the disease progresses, the entire abdomen becomes rigid and tender.  Traveling over bumps in a car, or simply tapping on the person’s heel with your fist when their leg is straightened, produces severe pain in the abdomen.


location of the appendix


Do You Need an Operation? 

Appendicitis may not always necessitate an operation.  Data from nuclear submarines – which do not have surgeons on board – showed that 85% of sailors with suspected appendicitis recovered without surgery.  But they were treated with intravenous antibiotics.

A much larger study involving 252 Swedish patients with appendicitis randomized them into two groups:  one was treated with surgery, and the other with I.V. antibiotics.  Of the 128 patients who did not undergo surgery, 88% recovered, and the other 12% eventually required operation.

In all of these studies intravenous antibiotics, not oral antibiotics, were used to treat the patients opting out of surgery.  I.V. access probably won’t be available to many preppers, and if it were, there are serious concerns about how fast those preparations go out of date.  This means most preppers without surgical access will be relying on oral antibiotics alone. And while oral antibiotics might not be as effective as their intravenous counterparts, they are still effective and likely the best you can do in a nightmare scenario.  So choosing the right oral antibiotics becomes important.

The I.V. equivalent to what has traditionally been used to treat appendicitis includes one antibiotic to kill anaerobic bacteria (species that do not need oxygen to live) and one to cover aerobic forms.  Flagyl (Metronidazole or Fish Zole) or Clindamycin are good choices for anaerobic species, and Augmentin (or similar Penicillin & Sulbactam combinations) take care of the aerobic bacteria. Fish antibiotic equivalents are available. And while we will address diverticulitis – a common disease of Americans causing pain in the left lower abdomen – in another post, for now know the same antibiotics used to treat appendicitis are also used to treat diverticulitis.

Take Home Message

Appendicitis is no longer considered to be a near death sentence without surgery.  Over 80% of people treated with I.V. antibiotics alone survive.  The numbers might be slightly lower with oral antibiotics, but are still exceptionally good.  Preppers should know which ones to select, and be sure of the dosage to use before the world falls apart.

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