Third degree tears during childbirth, causing debilitating bowel problems, appear to be on the increase. We have found that negligence regarding the management of these injuries can take several different forms.
Failure to diagnose a 3rd degree tear
A third degree tear requires prompt and skilled surgery as soon after the birth as possible. For this to take place, a diagnosis is required. Unfortunately, however, this appalling injury can sometimes be missed completely, leaving the new mother to suffer extremely distressing inability to control the passing of wind and faeces.
The diagnosis of a third degree tear requires a thorough examination of the woman’s perineum and anus immediately after the birth, including a digital, rectal examination to check the condition of the anal sphincter.
A failure to examine the woman properly may mean that she does not then undergo the necessary surgery and the relevant medical professionals may be regarded as having been negligent in their care of her.
Misdiagnosis of a 3rd degree tear
A diagnosis of a 3rd degree tear needs to be scrupulously accurate in its classification.
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists have provided clear descriptions of what constitutes the different degrees of a 3rd degree tear:
- A 3a tear involves damage to less than 50% of the external anal sphincter
- A 3b tear involves damages to more than 50% of the thickness of the external anal sphincter
- A 3c tear involves damage to both the external AND internal anal sphincter.
It can be seen from the above that a diagnosis that describes a 3c tear as a 3a tear is likely to have an unsatisfactory outcome. The new mother’s injury may only receive a partial repair, leaving the internal damage unresolved.
To attempt to repair such damage at a later date may not be as successful as had it been carried out at the time of the birth.
A substandard repair
Even when a 3rd degree tear is accurately diagnosed and promptly repaired, we have still found that the outcome is sometimes not sufficient to prevent on-going and severe bowel problems.
This may be due to a substandard repair. A substandard repair may constitute using inappropriate techniques or inappropriate materials to achieve the repair, meaning that the repair breaks down or does not produce the desired long-term recovery.
It could also mean that the full extent of the injury is not repaired.
The impact of an unrepaired 3rd degree tear can be permanent as well as distressing and life-changing. Many women who suffer from this injury find that they are unable to return to work due to the nature of their symptoms.
If this is found to be due to the failure by medical professionals to effectively diagnose or repair a severe perineal tear, it may be appropriate to make a claim for compensation.
Speak to a solicitor
Contact us to talk to a specialist medical negligence solicitor if your life has been impacted by this appalling injury due to a failure by your medical practitioners.
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If you, or your family member, has suffered a birth injury tear, please call us now for free, no obligation advice on 0800 234 3300 (or from a mobile click to call 01275 334030) or complete our Free Online Enquiry.