Amputating Limbs Won’t Stop Infection


When referring to becoming infected via wound, the main myth we come across is the amputation of limbs. The hypothesis behind this idea being, if you can detach the wounded limb in enough time, you can stop the flow of infected blood before it reaches the heart and induces death. One example of this idea being put to use is in George A. Romero’s , Day of the Dead. When, after Miguel is bitten on the arm, they amputate and cauterize the wound resulting in his survival. Another, more modern example, is from AMC’s The Walking Dead, when Hershel receives a bite on his ankle and Rick chops through his leg, just below the knee, with a small ax. He also survives and recovers to health. In both instances, the recently wounded person ran a short distance before being subdued for limb removal.

As we all well know running, especially in short sprints, causes the heart rate to increase and the blood to flow faster. An average adult heart beats at sixty to eighty beats per minute and blood pumps through the veins at an estimated six quarts per minute. Which means, it takes about one minute for your blood to circulate through your body and back to your heart. Add the increased heart rate from running and you have less than thirty seconds after introduction before the virus reaches the heart.

Now that’s thirty seconds before it reaches the heart. As soon as the blood is exposed to the infection it will begin to carry it up the limb towards the circulatory system. At this point, you’d have between five and fifteen seconds before the virus will have traveled past the point of amputation. The only possible scenario in which you could stop the spread of infection by removing the limb would be if you cut the limb off, in one swing, literally at the same moment that the wound was sustained. However, this would be extremely difficult to accomplish, and extraordinarily dangerous considering you’d no doubt be in no position to properly, if at all, care for a wound of that severity immediately after an attack. Even if you could remove the limb, it’d be a race against blood flow, and the chances of being able to cut through flesh and bone in one swing are slim at best. If the cut took more than one blow to achieve, it would have given the virus plenty of time to reach the heart.

Let suspend reality for a moment and assume you could remove the limb and stop the infection from spreading and causing death. Now what? Now you have an incredibly large open wound which requires regular cleaning and disinfecting, not to mention a supply of clean bandages and wrappings. And what about the person? If they weren’t catatonic from shock, they’d surely be half dead from blood loss. Unless you happened to be hold up in a hospital, you wouldn’t have the equipment to perform a blood transfusion, and even if you did, you have no way to test blood type. You’d run the risk of transfusing the wrong blood type, which can cause a number of problems such as decreased blood flow and kidney failure, resulting in death. Simply put, it’s illogical to believe that amputating a wounded limb would prevent infection and/or death.

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