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Amputation Stops Spread

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Lars: You cut his arm off!
Oggie: Um... This was the right one, yah?
Lars: It's melting!
Oggie: Yup. That was 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leg can be cut off, amputation is dangerous enough as is, and amputation to prevent infections are an old and largely outdated medical practice.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.


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    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 his own decaying arm into Barragan, killing him with his own power.
  • JoJo's 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 one of the more infamous scenes from Made in Abyss, Riko has Reg attempt to amputate her arm to stop the spread of a predatory animal's poison. Subverted, in that this likely would not have worked even if the character performing the amputation hadn't been grossly unqualified.
  • 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 her backstory, Petrushka from Gunslinger Girl had a leg amputeed due to cancer caused by Chernobyl exposure. She was Driven to Suicide but survived and was turn into a cyborg Child Soldier. The epilogue reveals that she later died because her cancer came back as leukemia because she wasn't on treatment.
  • My Hero Academia: Shigaraki's own Quirk allows him to gradually disintegrate whatever or whoever he touches with all his fingers. As confirmed near the end of the Overhaul arc, cutting the disintegrated limb is the only way to prevent death. Much later Re-Destro is forced to amputate his own feet to avoid being turned into dust by Shigaraki's attack.
    • Comes back again in a later arc when Aizawa gets shot in the leg with a quirk-destroying bullet and stops the drug from erasing Erasure by quickly amputating the limb himself.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion: When Eva 0's left arm is infected by angel goo from the possessed Eva 3, Ikari gives the order to amputate the arm remotely, despite Rei's synchronization with it.
  • In one episode of the Ajin anime has one of the Ajin being shot in the arm with a tranquilizer dart, and immediately chopping that part of the arm off to stop the drug, knowing it will grow back.
  • Inuyasha: Sesshomaru's sword Bakusaiga rots anything it cuts. The rot spreads and the only way to survive is to cut off the affected parts.

    Comic Books 
  • Parodied in the Hitman, story "Zombie Night at the Gotham Aquarium", in which 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 zombie formula only works on marine life, and you have to be already dead and directly exposed to it to become a zombie.
  • 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 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.

    Fan Fiction 
  • A Brighter Dark: Justified, as when Hans orders his arm amputated, it is already hanging on by a few tendons, and he knows that if he doesn't cleanly finish the job he could be killed by blood loss or infection.
  • Used in the Twilight/Heroes crossover "Dark Days" when Victoria and Adam are able to modify the Shanti virus so that it can infect vampires; so long as the vampires are bitten on their extremities, the limbs can be "safely" removed before infection spreads to the brain and becomes irreversible, but one vampire bitten on the ear cannot be treated so easily.
  • Fate/Long Night: Queen Nymeria Martell stabs Arturia in the left arm with her spear, which is imbued with the disease Greyscale. Brandon Stark chops off her arm before the disease can spread to her body.
  • In Luminosity, Leah gets bitten on the thumb by a venomous half-vampire baby boy, and Bella has to quickly pinch off the thumb to prevent the venom from making it to the rest of her. Justified; moving at vampire speed, Bella can get the job done in a fraction of a second, and Leah's werewolf Healing Factor means the amputation itself isn't dangerous.
  • In the Marvel Cinematic Universe fics "14,000,606” and “Survivor’s Guilt”, after Peter Parker performs the Snap in Tony Stark’s place during the final battle against Thanos, his healing factor keeps him alive long enough to receive medical help, but to stop the subsequent radiation poisoning from killing him the arm he used to perform the Snap has to be amputated.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • 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 Blood Red Sky, a vampire bites Farid's hand as he's sealing off the plane's cargo bay. Nadja quickly chops off the hand with an axe before he could turn.
  • 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.
  • 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 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 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...
  • 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.
  • Why Ash ends up cutting off his possessed hand in Evil Dead 2. Sadly that doesn't stop the hand.
  • 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.
  • 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!
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • In The Tomorrow War, When Dan sticks the toxin in the last female Whitespikes' arm, she rips it off and successfully stops the disintegration. She's finally killed when he shoves the whole vial down her throat, can't cut that off.

  • 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.
  • 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."
  • In the Old Kingdom books, this happens twice, first in Abhorsen, when the Disreputable Dog bites off Lirael's hand to save her from the corruption of the Destroyer and prevent her from having to pull a Heroic Sacrifice, then in Goldenhand, when Ferin's otherwise treatable arrow wound is constantly aggravated (the undead are not especially considerate about the need for rest-stops) and a Free Magic talisman inside her gets loose, meaning that while she doesn't get 'the blood poison', her foot starts mutating into something horrible.
  • 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.
  • Pride And Predjudice And Zombies: When a carriage driver is bitten in the leg by a zombie, his leg is cut off in an effort to stop the spread. He ends up dying of blood loss, though.
  • 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.
  • The Tangled Skein pits Sherlock Holmes against Dracula, culminating in a final confrontation in Baskerville Hall. Sherlock attempts to kill Dracula with a silver bullet, but the bullet only hits Dracula in the hand, and Dracula prevents the silver poisoning him further by cutting the wounded hand off.
  • Tortall Universe: The second book of 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.
  • Discussed in The Zombie Survival Guide, and also averted, as the tract points out that due to the speed of blood flow, the virus will likely spread well past the initial bite before amputation can take place.
  • Subverted in The Monk And The Viking Floki explains that his father died because he refused to have his sword hand amputated after an infection grew gangrenous.
  • In Green Hills and Dragon Tales, John amputates Ellis' rotting leg by burning it off with dragonfire.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Attempted in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s second season premiere "Shadows", 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 affected; his hand is almost immediately hacked off to stop the spread, and he does indeed survive.
  • Arastoo implores a doctor to cut off his finger when he sticks it on a needle infected with a deadly virus on Bones, but the doctor immediately tells him it won’t stop the virus’s spread.
  • 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.
  • Doctor Who:
    • In "The Seeds of Doom", after Winlett is infected by the Krynoid, 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.
    • "The Witchfinders": After Becka Savage got infected with Morax bio-material, she tried to stop it by having her grandmother chop off her leg. However, her grandmother couldn't bring herself to do it.
  • 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.
    • In this case, it becomes a subversion as while they cut his arm off, seven percent of the virus managed to retreat back into Lister's body. Effectively, they only managed to buy him 58 minutes more life. But then, they trick it into transferring to Kochanski through an arm that turns out to be a decoy.
  • 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 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.

    Video Games 
  • In Fear & Hunger, there are enemies which are capable of attacks that can infect the limbs of your party members. While green herbs can cure those infections, bonesaws can also deal with them and should be used as a last resort.
  • In Frostpunk, people affected by mild frostbite can be amputated to stop it if you sign the Radical Treatment law, but are unable to work as a result. However, later on you can give them prosthetics to make them useful again.
  • In Grim Fandango, the spread of Sproutella (a chemical that makes the skeletal inhabitants of the afterlife Deader than Dead by tuning them into flowers) can be stopped by cutting away the sprouted parts before it reaches your head. Salvador Limones demonstrates this by using an ax to chop a sprouting soldier in half: he's left with his head, half his torso, and one arm - but survives and continues supporting La Résistance on a unicycle.
  • At the start of Hob, the protagonist is poisoned in their left hand, and the very rapid spread is halted by cutting off their arm. It is subsequently replaced with an oversized robotic one.
  • 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 The Quarry, amputating any body piece that was injured by a werewolf or someone merely infected will stop the spread of the infection. Bobby can be seen shooting his finger off after a recently-infected Nick bites him, and Dylan can insist on getting his hand amputated. Laura also removed her slashed eyeball, which turns out to have saved her from the infection.
  • 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 cut off the rotten limb.
  • Mentioned in regards to the poison Pluto the Tormentor belches into the atmosphere of Blasted Tokyo in Shin Megami Tensei IV. Particularly notable in that it doesn't work - the poison remains in the infected's system, and amputation doesn't even slow its spread.
  • 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 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 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 Season 4, A.J. has to amputate Clem's leg to stop a zombie bite.

    Web Animation 
  • Mystery Skulls Animated: ??? took over Arthur's arm, signaled by it turning green. As the green crawled up the rest of Arthur's body, Mystery tore the arm off, ceasing the possession, though in exchange the arm now serves as a host to the thing.

  • Jill Barton of Dead Winter was forced to amputate her arm after heroically installing a sliding glass door while under siege from raiders and a cannibal horde. This gives Lizzie hope that they could stop people from turning through amputation but Jill quickly dashes that. And rightfully so as she's a Zombie Infectee whom would later turn and be put down by her fellow employees.
  • 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.
  • Last Blood: The school principal is lightly grazed on the hand. They decide to amputate his whole arm just to be on the safe side. We never get to see if it worked because one vampire decides it's not worth the risk to find outnote .
  • A Cerberus-like demon in the Sock Series severs one of its heads to avoid getting infected by the parasitic blood of a plant creating god.

    Web Original 
  • The Adventure Zone: During the Crystal Kingdom arc, this seems to be the only way to prevent the spreading pink tourmaline from completely crystallizing someone, as Merle unfortunately finds out after grabbing a crystal and Magnus hacks his hand off.
  • 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.

    Western Animation 
  • The Owl House: In "King's Tide", Eda's detachable limbs from her curse becomes a Chekhov's Skill, as it allows Raine to save her from the interaction of the Draining Spell and curse by removing the forearm that the Coven Sigil is on, allowing it to crumble away while the rest of Eda remains intact.
  • 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.
  • Castlevania (2017): A vampire or demon struck by the blessed Morning Star flail will explode, unless the body part that made contact is removed quickly enough. Dragan quickly realizes this and tears his own arm off when hit by the weapon.

    Real Life 
  • 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.
    • Sometimes applies to 3rd-degree (burned through the whole dermis) and worse (through the fat, muscle and bone) 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.
  • Necrotizing fasciitis, also known as flesh-eating disease, can sometimes be cured by simply scraping away infected tissue while leaving healthy tissue intact, with more healthy tissue eventually emerging to replace the removed portions. In more severe cases, however, amputation may be necessary to prevent the spread of the bacteria.
  • Also the recommended course in some cases of advance cancer. In one case the doctors had to remove the entire lower half of a man to save his life. However this case of Body Horror was nothing for the man compared to the cancer. He actually cried in happiness afterwards because it was so painful.
  • A less severe but still shocking example of the above happened to former Major League Baseball pitcher Dave Dravecky. In 1989, he came back from having a cancerous tumor removed from his left (pitching) arm the previous year. Sadly, the required treatment weakened his arm to the point that he broke the arm soon after his return. Eventually, the cancer came back, requiring the amputation of his entire left arm and shoulder.note 
  • Theoretically this trope could be used to treat a rabies bite. Rabies is unusual in that it travels along nerve fibers instead of the circulatory system, making its spread very slow. This is what allows the rabies vaccine to work even if it's administered after infection, the body has time to develop an immune response before it reaches the central nervous system and becomes almost certainly fatal. Of course with the vaccine available, amputation becomes completely unnecessary, allowing you to keep both life and limb.


Video Example(s):


Empire of Sock

Sock's pet gets infected by a plant monster. Luckily, it has heads to spare.

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Example of:

Main / AmputationStopsSpread

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