Predicting negligence in female sterilization failure using time interval to sterilization failure: analysis of 131 cases

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BACKGROUND: Sterilization failure due to 'tubal non-occlusion' or 'wrong structure sterilization' is considered negligent, whereas 'spontaneous tubal recanalization' or 'fistula formation' is considered non-negligent. We examined whether interval to pregnancy failure was predictive of a negligent rather non-negligent failure mechanism. We aim to test this hypothesis in a selected population series of known mechanisms of sterilization failure and their time interval to failure. METHODS: Analyses of 131 failed sterilizations pooled from UK (NHS Litigation Authority, Medical Protection Society and our hospital), Australia and a qualitative systematic review. RESULTS: We identified 88 negligent and 43 non-negligent sterilization failures. Filshie and ring methods failed earlier than diathermy and Pomeroy methods. Sterilization failure occurred significantly earlier in negligent than non-negligent failure mechanisms [median failure intervals 7.0 versus 12.0 months; Hazard ratio (2.35 95% CI 1.31-4.21)]. Knowing that sterilization failure occurred early, increased the probability that the failure mechanism was likely to be negligent rather than non-negligent. CONCLUSIONS: A short interval to failure is suggestive of a negligent failure mechanism. There is less certainty in the predictive value of longer time intervals on the mechanism of failure due to a paucity of cases. A national register of failed sterilizations that have been systematically investigated is needed to improve our understanding of negligent and non-negligent failure mechanisms.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2437-43
Number of pages7
JournalHuman Reproduction
Issue number9
Early online date28 Jun 2007
Publication statusPublished - 28 Jun 2007