Lars: You cut [Dimo's] arm off!
Oggie: Um... Dis vos de right von, yah?
Lars: It's melting!
Oggie: Yop. Dot vas it.Sometimes when sucking out the poison isn't enough, someone simply cuts off the limb in question, above the problem. Naturally, this is not recommended in real life as blood flows faster than an arm or leg can be cut off, amputation is dangerous enough as is, and amputation to prevent infections are an old and largely outdated medical practice. Mostly used in the case of Zombie Apocalypse-style infections, where the infection will be fatal, and this is the only option to save their life. Subtrope of Life-or-Limb Decision.
— Girl Genius note
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
- Bleach anime episode #275. Barragan uses his Respira attack against Captain Soifon, causing her arm to disintegrate starting at the fingertips. She orders her lieutenant Omaeda to cut off her arm before the decay reaches her body, and he does so. Then another character teleports her decaying into Barragan, killing him with his own power.
- Jo Jos Bizarre Adventure Phantom Blood: When Johnathan's sunlight-infused attack starts dissolving Dio's vampiric body, Dio survives by getting rid of everything below his neck.
- In Naruto, Sasuke envelops himself in a wall of inextinguishable Amaterasu flames, but the Fourth Raikage attacks right through it with his left arm. To stop the fire from spreading through the rest of his body, he cuts it with his right arm.
- In The Thing from Another World: Climate of Fear, a sequel series to The Thing, Agapito cuts off his arm with a machete to keep himself from being infected.
- In Hitman, Hacken is bitten by a re-animated seal and assumes it will turn him into a Zombie so he cuts off his hand with a chainsaw. The scientist later tells him that the current formula only works on marine life, and you have to be dead and directly exposed to it to become a zombie.
- In the story "To kill a werewolf" published in Marvel's Vampire Tales #1, a werewolf bites the protagonist's arm, which quickly transforms into a canine paw. The doctors amputate it before it can spread to the rest of his body. It seems to have worked, but many years later he transforms into a werewolf completely anyway.
- In Evolution, Dr Block finds himself host to an alien fly that is burrowing into his leg. He refuses to let doctors cut off the leg in question until he learns that it's headed for his testicles. Ultimately, they pull it out of his rectum instead.
- Averted in Creepshow, when Jordy opts not to go for medical help because he's afraid the doctor will amputate his "meteor shit"-infected fingers without anesthetic.
- In Norwegian zombie movie Dead Snow, one of the characters lops his own arm off after being bitten by a zombie on said arm. Hilariously, after dispatching the zombie and sawing off his arm, he breathes a sigh of relief, only for another zombie to leap up out of the snow and bite him down there. Now absolutely infuriated, he delivers a Skyward Scream, beats the zombie to death, and then sobs as he looks down at his ruined manhood, before turning to look at the chainsaw...
- Nine Lives (1957), also Norwegian, war hero Jan Baalsrud has to amputate his own toes to stop gangrene to spread through his feet. By the way, he did it all by himself! In Real Life!
- When Segen gets infected during the Jerusalem sequence in World War Z, Gerry cuts off the infected limb and applies first aid as quickly as he can.
- Subverted in The Blob (1988). The homeless man suddenly shows up wielding an axe, but it turns out that he's trying to hack his lower arm off because the micro-blob that fell from space has started consuming it. Before he can finish, the blob clutches to the limb's remainder to continue eating him.
- In District 9 Wikus attempts to chop his arm off in the hope that it will stop the metamorphosis into a Prawn from spreading, but he only manages to get a finger off and stops due to the pain.
- Pan's Labyrinth: A wounded Spanish rebel is forced to have his gangrenous leg amputated. He insists on a moment to psych himself up before biting the bullet and letting them start cutting.
- Attempted in the second Cabin Fever movie, wherein a character gets blood infected with necrotizing fasciitis on his hand and cuts it off using the chop saw in his school's shop class. ultimately, it doesn't work.
- In Day of the Dead (1985), a soldier is bitten by a zombie, but his arm is immediately amputated and cauterized. It's uncertain if this did any good, as shortly after he wakes up he essentially commits suicide by zombie horde anyway.
- In The Clone, when Dr. Agnew accidentally touches the eponymous creature (which immediately starts converting his still-living flesh into its own flesh), Harry stops it by cutting his arm off at the elbow. This successfully saves him.
- An intern isn't as lucky. When he gets it on him, they apply iodine (which the Clone is repulsed by) to his arm. What they don't realize is that the Clone then works its way around iodine on the surface, to eat its way through the inside of the arm and absorbs him from the inside out. Harry chops his arm off anyway, but it's too late by this point.
- Subverted in a cruelly ironic way later in the novel. Chuck Danton has the misfortune of getting absorbed headfirst. His companions pull him free, and his head comes off, halting the absorption at the neck and leaving the rest of his body intact, but for obvious reasons he still dies. But, hey, it did stop the spread of the Clone flesh! There's a body to have a funeral with, at least.
- In Remnants two of the characters have to have appendages amputated to remove worms that are slowly eating them. One of them is a redshirt, who bleeds out after his leg is removed. The other is a main character, who only loses a finger.
- Discussed in The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold. The royse Bergon was wounded in the thigh by a leopard's claws, and the wound turned septic when he left it untreated, before it was discovered.
"His [Bergon's] rising hysteria [about the amputation] was only calmed when a second physician opined that the infection was not gangrene after all—Cazaril's nose agreed—but rather, blood poisoning, and that amputation would do more harm than good now."
- The Guns of Navarone. One of Major Franklin's legs is broken during the climb up the cliffs and gangrene later sets in. The team leaves him with the Germans and the leg is amputated to prevent the gangrene from spreading to the rest of his body and killing him.
- The second book in the Tamora Pierce series The Immortals has the mage Gissa, who cuts her own hand off after it gets hit by a drop of the Bloodrain poison potion she was stirring. If she had left it long enough for it to reach her bloodstream it would have rotted her from the inside out; once it reached full strength they were planning on pouring it into the river, killing every living thing within ten miles.
Live Action TV
- In an episode of Red Dwarf where Lister is infected with a sentient virus they try to isolate it in one arm and cut that arm off. Lister spends the next episode trying to cope with one arm, and when that fails get a new one.
- Doctor Who: In "The Seeds of Doom", after Winlett is infected by the Kyrnoid, the team plans to amputate his arm in the hope that it would maybe slow the infection while they think of something else to try. However, the Kyrnoid takes him over and he escapes before they can do so.
- In The Walking Dead episode "Seed", they attempt this with Hershel after he is bitten. It works. Later, they have to do the same thing with Tyreese, but he dies from blood loss.
- The X-Files: Amputation is used as a preventative in a small Russian town near an industrial complex where the Purity (aka Black Oil) alien virus is being experimented with. They only want to use completely healthy individuals so if the locals cut off an arm it won't attach to them. They almost cut off Mulder's arm before he escapes, but Krycek isn't so lucky.
- In the series finale of Copper, which features Morehouse, Corcoran and Freeman out in the Southern wilderness hunting John Wilkes Boothe, Morehouse's prosthetic leg begins to chafe on his stump, and it eventually becomes infected. For a while, Morehouse attempts to simply ignore it, but after a while the pain from the infection is so great he can barely walk, remarking that his leg "hurts worse than the day [he] lost it." Freeman, a doctor, eventually has to remove the lower part of his stump to stop the gangrene from spreading.
- Attempted in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s second season premier when an alien artifact causes an agent's hand, then arm, to slowly start turning to stone. She demands that her arm be amputated in the hopes of stopping the spread, but she is killed by something else a minute or so later anyway. The season finale has Coulson be similarly effected; his arm is almost immediately hacked off to stop the spread, and he does indeed survive.
- In Vikings, after being struck with an arrow in his arm, Torstein asks to amputate it because the infection is killing him. Everyone involved, including Torstein, seems to know it's probably too late for this to do any good and the infection continues getting worse afterward. Eventually Torstein more or less gives himself a Suicide Mission so he can at least have a chance of going to Valhalla.
- In The Walking Dead,
- In Season One Episode Five, after Lee is bitten he can try this to stop the infection. It doesn't work; even if you cut his arm off Lee will still die at the end.
- Season Two Episode Three introduces Reggie, whose missing arm proves that someone can be saved from a zombie bite if the amputation happens quickly enough. At the end of the episode, Clem can opt to do this to Sarita, who gets bitten on the wrist during the escape from Carver's compound. Subverted at the start of Episode 4, when she gets mauled by walkers anyway.
- In Robinson's Requiem, if one of your limbs suffers from gangrene due to not treating an infection, the only way to avoid an agonizing death from poisoning is to cutt off the rotten limb.
- In Starcraft II Wings Of Liberty General Warfield takes several hydralisk spines to the arm, if you talk to him afterwards he complains that the medics are having trouble stopping the poison from spreading but won't let him just cut the damn thing off. In the next cutscene he is shown with a large prosthetic arm that features a cannon.
- In Lollipop Chainsaw, zombies attack Nick, Juliet's boyfriend, at the end of the first level. To stop the infection, she resorts to extreme amputation: she cuts off everything below the neck and uses magic to keep his head animate.
- Lords of the Fallen: There is an injured monk that has been bitten by a spider and the venom has already spread too far to suck out so the monk's only chance of survival is for Harken to (rather stylishly) slice the afflicted arm off. Even then, he won't make it unless you give him a Healing Potion.
- General Randall in [PROTOTYPE] hacked off his own arm with a cleaver after being bitten by Elizabeth Greene, fearing that she might have infected him with the Redlight Virus.
- In Virtue's Last Reward, Sigma does this during Quark's ending, using a giant door as a crude cleaver to cut off his hand and save him from a fatal injection. Justified because he has a bracelet attached to his wrist that has already given him an anesthetic and will give him the poison within 9 minutes, and because Sigma's ending reveals that his arms are cybernetic, so they are expendable.
- In Girl Genius Dimo gets stung on the arm by some glowing blob thing and Oggie slices the arm off. The non-Jaegers in the group think he's overreacting, until the severed limb melts.
- And later Martellus cut his hand off and replaced it with a prosthetic after being hit with a poisoned knife.
- "Biscuit" in Goblins gets infected with a flesh-rotting curse after standing on a severed finger ripped off the body of an Eldritch Abomination. He opts to cut the infected leg off with an axe.
- In ShootAround, the girls of a basketball team facing a Zombie Apocalypse cut off the hand if their coach because he was bitten by the first zombie he encountered. This is Played for Laughs.
- Bravest Warriors: In "Season of the Worm", Beth cuts Wallow's arm off to prevent him from being humped into another dimension.
- The Red Plague in Twig, which has its origins in modified plant life instead of disease, spreads by spores which root themselves in their victims, integrating with their nerves to cause tremendous pain and then spreading by threading roots through the victim's veins. Removing sizable chunks of flesh to deny it access is the only way to stop it spreading through the entire body and turning the victim into a senseless source of nutrition as it flowers, and as the flowers often latch onto nearby objects it may also be necessary in order to move the victim at all.
- In Ugly Americans a batboy gets loose in Mark's counseling group and bites Mark and the Two-Headed Worm Guy. After killing it Grimes draws a machete and slices off Worm Guy's bitten hand (which regenerates). Mark (who got bitten on the crotch) pretends that it didn't get him and slowly transforms over the rest of the episode, until it turns out that Doug the Koala Man's saliva acts as an antidote.
- This used to be the only method of stopping gangrene from spreading. Nowadays, the rotting area can often be saved, but amputation is still sometimes required. Especially in the case of Gas Gangrene, which spreads quickly as it destroys muscle tissue.
- Also true for "The Flesh-Eating Disease", AKA Necrotizing Fasciitis.
- Sometimes applies to 4th-degree and worse burns to limbs: although burn wounds don't spread, they get infected very easily, so if tissue damage is severe enough that the appendage becomes useless, removing it is often the wiser option to prevent deep-tissue infections.
- The Manhattan Project had a policy to cover contamination with plutonium. Anyone who had plutonium enter their body through a cut or a scratch on a limb would be subjected to immediate high amputation to keep it from entering the rest of their body. Robert A. Heinlein mentioned this policy in his short story "The Long Watch".