In the last twelve months, Janine Collier has settled three medical negligence cases concerning a failure to identify and repair perineal tears resulting in injuries to the anal sphincter complex following childbirth.
What is a perineal tear?
It is not uncommon to sustain a tear between the vagina and the anus during childbirth. First degree tears are so small and superficial (involving just the skin and the tissue surrounding the vagina) that few, if any, stitches are required. Sometimes, the tear extends further, into the muscles beneath the skin (a second degree tear) and this will need to be stitched and closed layer by layer. Around 4% of women suffer a more serious tear which extends to or through the rectum (third and fourth degree tears).
Why should perineal tears be repaired at the time of delivery?
Healthcare professionals generally accept that it is most important that tears are identified and repaired at the time of delivery to reduce the risk of infection, recto-vaginal fistulae and various rectal symptomology, including faecal and flatus incontinence.
Obstetricians now undergo a rigorous training programme to minimise the chances of clinicians missing these tears after delivery; to ensure a good quality repair; and to maximise the chances of good continence following primary repair.
What are the consequences of missing a third or fourth degree tear at delivery?
Unfortunately, however, sometimes, these tears are still missed and notwithstanding a delayed repair (sometimes primary, sometimes secondary), the women suffer persistent and debilitating rectal symptomology which may include incontinence of flatus, faecal incontinence, passive soiling etc. Understandably, this has a significant effect on their lifestyle, their relationships with friends, family and Partners and, in some cases, their ability to work.
These women may be entitled to compensation to help them adapt to their situation; to fund future treatment; and to compensate them for any financial losses arising from their injuries.
How can we help you?
If you suffered a third or fourth degree tear; if this was not identified and repaired at the time of delivery; and if you suffer continuing problems as a consequence, please contact our Obstetric Anal Sphincter Injury expert, Janine Collier, for some initial advice.
Janine is an expert in this field of medical negligence law. For an initial chat, you can call Janine on 01223 702303 or email firstname.lastname@example.org