A rectal buttonhole tear is an unusual and uncommon injury which can occur during vaginal childbirth. Without prompt attention it can leave a woman with permanent bowel problems.
Perineal and anal damage during childbirth
Most women suffer an injury or tear of some sort when giving birth via the vagina but for some women the outcome is considerably worse than others. For most women, approximately 90%, the injury is small and resolves quickly with no on-going symptoms.
For a small percentage, a severe injury can tear across the perineum from the vagina and damage the anal sphincter. These are the muscles which control the bowel and damage to these muscles can leave the woman with urgency, leakage or incontinence of faeces and/or wind.
However, occasionally, a small buttonhole tear can occur in the lining of the anal canal. This injury can create a hole between the bowel and the vagina, meaning that the woman affected may find that she is inadvertently losing wind and faeces via her vagina rather than via her anus. This can, understandably, be extremely distressing, debilitating and highly restrictive on working and socialising.
Diagnosis and repair
It is important to stress that this type of injury does not occur often but, nevertheless, it can occur, and medical professionals attendant at a vaginal birth should ensure that a thorough examination of the woman’s vagina, perineum and anus is undertaken after the birth in order to assess for any signs of damage.
Such damage needs to be repaired as promptly as possible and with a high degree of skill. A failure to repair this type of injury may mean that surgery is required at a later date which may not be so successful. It may also mean that the woman who has suffered the internal damage finds she requires a colostomy, too, in order to maintain the functioning of her bowels.
The guidelines of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists clearly state that ‘all women having a vaginal delivery are at risk of sustaining OASIS (anal sphincter injuries) or isolated rectal buttonhole tears. They should therefore, be examined systematically, including a digital rectal examination to assess the severity of damage, particularly prior to suturing.’
Failure to diagnose and repair
If medical professionals to not undertake a thorough examination after a birth, meaning that the mother is discharged without any injury being repaired, it may be appropriate to consider making a claim for compensation.
If you are suffering with the appalling long-term effects of a misdiagnosed or undiagnosed tear, contact us to discuss your experience with a specialist medical negligence solicitor. We have supported numerous claims for perineal tear negligence and would be happy to advise you.
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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.