If you were diagnosed with a first or second degree tear, but later discovered you actually had a third or fourth degree tear, you could be entitled to pursue a claim for compensation.
Diagnosing perineal tears
Around 90% of women will sustain a perineal tear while giving birth. Such injuries need to be diagnosed and repaired shortly after the delivery. It is therefore routine practice for medical professionals to examine a woman after she has given birth to check for perineal tears.
If an injury is present, it must be categorised according to a first, second, third or fourth degree tear. This describes the extent of the tear and can be defined as follows:-
- First degree tear: laceration of the vaginal epithelium (the tissue lining the vagina) or perineal skin only;
- Second degree tear: laceration of the perineal muscles and fascia as well as the vaginal epithelium and perineal skin. The anal sphincter is not involved;
- Third degree tear: laceration of the anal sphincters, as well as the vaginal epithelium, perineal skin and perineal body;
- Fourth degree tear: the same as a third degree tear, but the injury extends to the tissue underneath (the anal epithelium).
A first and second degree tear can be repaired in theatre by a midwife or doctor. Third and fourth degree tears must be repaired in theatre by an experienced surgeon.
Wrongly diagnosed perineal tears
However, there are occasions where medical professionals will make a wrong diagnosis.
In some cases, a midwife or doctor will perform an examination and find no injury, when in actual fact there is a tear present. This is known as a missed tear. Consequently a woman will leave hospital with an undiagnosed and unrepaired tear. This can lead to unnecessary pain and suffering. If a third or fourth degree tear has been left unrepaired, a woman can go on to develop faecal incontinence and other life-changing complications.
In other cases, a woman will be told that she has a first or second degree tear, when in actual fact there is a third or fourth degree tear present. This is known as an under diagnosed tear. Consequently a woman will undergo a repair in the delivery suite, during which only part of the laceration will be sutured. She will therefore leave hospital with a defect in her sphincter that has not been repaired. This will lead to the inability to control flatus (wind) and faeces.
If medical professionals do initially make a wrong diagnosis, treatment can subsequently be provided once the true injury has been identified. However, this will not be as effective as a primary repair carried out shortly after the birth.
Claim compensation for a missed tear
If you have suffered complications because of a missed or under diagnosed tear, get in touch with us to discuss making a compensation claim.
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