Iraq veteran with an osseointegrated prosthetic arm

“I really look at [the explosive incident] as an opportunity, because it kind of made me appreciate life more with what happened, and it taught me that I need to take care of myself.” Retired Army Sergeant William Santos said, “It’s just that there’s so much opportunity for me right now that I am able to go ahead and accomplish so many things.”

Losing a limb is a drastic challenge to any person’s body and mind, but William embraced this challenge and saw it as a turning point that enriched his life. With the help of the bone-anchored OPRA™ Implant System, he has been able to return to an active lifestyle; exercising, enjoying water sports, and trying new things.

Iraq veteran with an osseointegrated prosthetic arm

Army veteran William Santos

Iraq Veteran Lost his Left Arm in an Explosion

The explosion occurred in October 2016, when William was stationed in Baghdad, Iraq. As a Combat Engineer, his mission was to search for explosives and make sure the roadway was cleared for troops to be able to safely pass. On that day, William’s squad came across a “jersey barrier” in the middle of the road when they were performing a regular route clearance. Before William could give any instructions, the driver drove forward, alongside the barrier. “The explosive was right there, and it just blew the vehicle up.“ William said.

The explosion severed William’s left arm. Within days, he was sent to Walter Reed National Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.

Determined to Find a Better Prosthetic Solution

After two weeks of treatment, William began to wear a socket prosthesis, but he found several issues with it. “The problem with the socket is the sweating and the bruises on my stump.” William explained, “It was constantly slipping off, and it wasn’t comfortable.” Moreover, the chest strap used to suspend the above-elbow prosthesis hampered his upper body motion.

“I needed something better. I wanted something better. I wanted something where I would feel more free to be able to move my limb.” William said. He did extensive research on prosthetic solutions that would allow him to use his residual limb as close as possible to how he used his now missing arm. What he found was Integrum’s innovative technology: the OPRA™ Implant System, a bone-anchored prosthesis system based on osseointegration. At that time, the technology was undergoing clinical trials at Walter Reed, and William became one of the first people in the United States to receive the OPRA™ Implant System.

The OPRA™ Implant System as a Game Changer for William’s Quality of Life

The implant surgery and rehabilitation went smoothly. After recovery, William was soon able to resume his workout routine. “My prosthetic is much easier to put on. I don’t have to waste any time doing that.” He continued, “Plus, I don’t get all the sweating that would affect suspension that caused my old one to slip off. Right now, with this type of prosthesis, I don’t have to worry about that at all.”

By attaching an implant directly to the bone, osseointegration improves sensory feedback through the prosthesis (osseoperception). Recipients of the OPRA™ Implant System can feel where their artificial limb is in space, without looking at it. Compared with prosthetic sockets, the range of motion permitted by osseointegrated prostheses is also greatly improved. “Osseointegration with the OPRA™ Implant system has been the best thing to happen to me.” William said. He enjoys a broad range of exercises, including water sports such as kayaking and swimming.

Watch Dr. Dave Campbell in conversation with William and Orthopaedic Oncologist Jonathan Forsberg at Walter Reed National Medical Center on MSNBC.

The OPRA™ Implant System for above-elbow amputations is not yet commercially available in the US.  The system is available for above-knee amputations at multiple medical centers throughout the United States. Get in touch with us and learn how bone-anchored prostheses can dramatically improve your quality of life.