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Digital Rectal Examination Negligence and Perineal Trauma

Digital Rectal Examination Negligence and Perineal Trauma

Failure to carry out an effective examination of a woman after vaginal childbirth can have catastrophic results and may justify a claim for compensation.

What is a Digital Rectal Examination?

A digital rectal examination is where a medical professional inserts a gloved finger into the anus in order to check for a variety of conditions. In the case of a woman who has just given birth vaginally, the purpose of the examination is to check whether the woman's anal sphincter muscles have been damaged by the birth process.

Giving birth through the vagina causes the skin and muscles of the perineum to stretch and, for a very unfortunate few, this can cause severe damage to the anal sphincter.

Why do digital rectal examinations matter?

Damage to the anal sphincter during childbirth may not be evident just from a visual assessment. Less severe perineal damage, such as 1st and 2nd degree tears can be diagnosed in this way but, without a digital rectal examination, it is possible that damage to the anal muscles will not be identified.

A digital rectal examination is crucial if medical professionals are to be certain that the full extent of a woman's perineal trauma has been diagnosed.

Implementing the medical guidelines

The guidelines developed by The Royal College of Obstetricians and the Royal College of Midwives in the OASI care bundle state the following:

'the perineum must be examined after delivery and any tears graded according to the RCOG guidelines. Examination should include a per rectum check (DRE) even when the perineum appears to be intact.'

This makes it clear that a visual assessment alone in not adequate.

Medical negligence

If medical practitioners fail to follow these guidelines and fail to carry out a digital rectal examination on a woman who has given birth vaginally, they may be regarded as having acted negligently.

If the woman has, in fact, suffered a severe 3rd or 4th degree tear, her injury will not be repaired and she is likely to develop extremely distressing and debilitating symptoms of wind and faecal incontinence, potentially affecting almost every aspect of her life.

Speak to a solicitor

If you or a loved one are facing the on-going difficulties caused by a severe birth tear due to medical negligence, contact Glynns Solicitors.

We have supported numerous women in investigating the quality of their natal care and one of our team of specialist solicitors will be very happy to talk to you about the suitability of making a claim for compensation.

Please call us on 0800 234 3300 (or from a mobile 01275 334030) or complete our Online Enquiry Form.

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