Third degree obstetric tears; outcome after primary repair

Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand. 1998 Aug;77(7):736-40.


Background: Disruption of the anal sphincter occurs in 0.5 to 2.5% of women during delivery. Defects of the sphincter are major causes of fecal incontinence. More than 30% of women who suffer from third degree perineal tears develop incontinence. We sought to determine the incidence of symptoms and injury to the anal sphincter among women who gave birth during a 5 year period. We also investigated the sensitivity of manometry and endosonography as well as the correlation of these two diagnostic modalities.

Methods: Thirty-eight women were examined one to five years after delivery. We used a questionnaire to assess symptoms of anal incontinence. Anal manometry and endosonography were performed.

Results: Twenty (57%) women had symptoms; most of them (34%) in the form of flatulence incontinence. The rest were incontinent of either liquid or solid stools. Four of these women were re-operated. Seventeen percent of the women suffered from anal incontinence during sexual intercourse. Only seven women had been in contact with a doctor regarding these problems.

Conclusion: The fact that 57% of the women that took part in this study reported complications, leads us to the conclusion that the primary repair of third degree anal sphincter tears is unsatisfactory. It is important to decide whether any changes in primary repair may improve results in the future. Sexual dysfunction is also a complication of third degree obstetric tear with primary repair. It is important that the women who suffer from anal sphincter tear, as well as doctors, are given information about possible symptoms and the treatment available.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anal Canal / diagnostic imaging
  • Anal Canal / injuries*
  • Anal Canal / physiopathology
  • Anal Canal / surgery
  • Fecal Incontinence / diagnostic imaging
  • Fecal Incontinence / etiology*
  • Fecal Incontinence / physiopathology
  • Fecal Incontinence / therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Manometry
  • Obstetric Labor Complications / surgery*
  • Pregnancy
  • Sexual Dysfunctions, Psychological / diagnostic imaging
  • Sexual Dysfunctions, Psychological / etiology*
  • Sexual Dysfunctions, Psychological / physiopathology
  • Sexual Dysfunctions, Psychological / therapy
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Ultrasonography