Third degree tears are categorised according to 3a, 3b and 3c tears. In this article we look at the different types of third degree tear in more detail.
Perineal tears during childbirth
A third degree tear is a type of injury sustained by a woman during a vaginal delivery.
Around 90% of women will tear to some extent, although the severity of the injury can vary dramatically. Most will only suffer a first or second degree tear, both of which are relatively superficial injuries that may not even require any stitches.
However, approximately 9% of women will experience a third or fourth degree tear. These are more serious injuries that involve the perineum and anal sphincter.
Third degree tears
A third degree tear is defined as a laceration of the anal sphincters, as well as the vaginal epithelium, perineal skin, perineal body.
Because it is important to be precise about the nature of the injury, medical professionals subdivide third degree tears into 3a, 3b and 3c tears. This system ensures that the full extent of the injury is diagnosed and repaired.
The three different types of third degree tear can be described as follows:-
- 3a: partial tear of the external sphincter involving less than 50% thickness;
- 3b: tear of the external sphincter involving more than 50% thickness;
- 3c: external and internal sphincter torn.
Diagnosing and repairing third degree tears
After a vaginal delivery, medical professionals should examine a woman to check if she has sustained a tear. This must include a digital rectal examination, as often this is the only way to discover a third degree tear.
A midwife or doctor can perform this examination. If there is any doubt in the mind of the medical practitioner, he/she should seek the advice of a more senior doctor.
If a third degree tear is found to be present, it should be further categorised as a 3a, 3b or 3c tear. A repair must then be carried out in theatre by an experienced surgeon.
Third degree tear negligence
If medical professionals fail to properly diagnose a third degree tear and this causes a patient unnecessary pain and suffering, the standard of care will be considered unacceptable. Consequently the injured patient will be entitled to make a medical negligence claim for the damages wrongfully incurred.
To find out more about claiming compensation for a third degree tear, please get in touch with us today.
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