We sought to determine whether a prolonged physicians' strike causes changes in the delivery of health care and in the behavior of health care seekers? We compared appendectomy patients during the 1983 physicians' strike in Israel and during a control period in 1984, by analyzing the records of 171 patients in two Jerusalem hospitals. Patients had similar demographic characteristics and disease manifestation, but differed in their health care seeking behavior. The 1983 patients tended to postpone their first contact with the health system and frequently failed to present themselves for a follow-up visit after discharge. Control group patients were more likely to receive preoperative antibiotics and less likely to develop postoperative fever than the strike group patients. The findings confirmed that the differences between the strike and control groups were caused by administrative barriers resulting from the strike rather than by differences in actual medical treatment.