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What Does A 3rd Degree Tear Mean?

What Does A 3rd Degree Tear Mean?

A 3rd degree tear means that the perineum and anus have torn during the vaginal delivery of a baby.

Perineal tears 3rd degree tear

A 3rd degree tear is a type of perineal tear. There are four types of perineal tear, starting with a 1st degree tear and ending with a 4th degree tear. The severity of the tears become progressively worse, so the higher grade the worse the injury is. This means that 3rd and 4th degree tears are the most severe tears.

3rd degree tear definition

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) defines a 3rd degree tear as 'extending downwards from the vaginal wall and perineum to the anal sphincter'. Therefore a 3rd degree tear is an injury to the vagina, perineum and anal sphincter.

The definition of a 3rd degree tear can actually be subdivided into another three categories: 3a, 3b and 3c. This does not apply to 1st, 2nd or 4th degree tears. The additional definitions help medical practitioners pinpoint precisely how much of the anal sphincter is involved.

The subcategories of a 3rd degree tear can be defined as:

  • 3a: less than 50% of the external anal sphincter torn
  • 3b: more than 50% of the external anal sphincter torn
  • 3c: both the external anal sphincter and internal anal sphincter torn

What will happen if I have a 3rd degree tear?

If you have a 3rd degree tear, you should be diagnosed with a 3a, 3b or 3c tear shortly after giving birth. A diagnosis is made during a routine examination. You should then be sent to theatre for a repair, during which the injury will be sutured with dissolvable stitches. The diagnosis of a 3a, 3b or 3c tear is very important to the repair, as the surgeon will know exactly how much of the sphincter needs to be sutured.

What if a 3rd degree tear is not diagnosed?

If a 3rd degree tear is not diagnosed, it will not be repaired. Or if the type of 3rd degree tear is not accurately identified, the full extent of the injury will not be repaired. This means a hole will remain in the anal sphincter.

The anal sphincter enables us to control the passing of wind and faeces. If there is an unrepaired injury to the anal sphincter, the patient will find she involuntarily passes wind and faeces.

Have you been left incontinent after a 3rd degree tear?

If you have developed incontinence after giving birth, was your 3rd degree tear missed or badly repaired? If so you could be entitled to pursue a claim for compensation. Contact us for more information.

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