Hiatal Hernia

Hiatal Hernia Disease Q & A

What is Hiatal Hernia?

A hiatal hernia is a specific type of hernia that occurs when the upper portion of your stomach bulges through the muscles separating your chest and abdomen. The hiatus is a small opening in the muscular wall for food to pass through your esophagus into your stomach, and occasionally the stomach can bulge through this opening, creating a hiatal hernia.
Usually, a small hiatal hernia doesn’t cause any immediate medical problems, and it’s common for people to not even realize they have one until they’re told by their doctor. However, a larger hiatal hernia can cause a number of unpleasant symptoms and lead to complications.

What are the symptoms of a hiatal hernia?

A hiatal hernia large enough to cause symptoms often results in:

  • Heartburn
  • Regurgitation of food or liquids into your mouth
  • Acid reflux caused by the backflow of acid into your esophagus
  • Chest or abdominal pain
  • Difficulty swallowing or shortness of breath
  • Gastrointestinal bleeding, indicated by vomiting blood or passing black or tar-like stools.

How are hiatal hernias treated?

If you have a hiatal hernia causing heartburn and acid reflux, you may be able to manage your symptoms by taking antacids, or other medications that reduce or neutralize the acid in your stomach. To truly fix a hiatal hernia, however, the physician may recommend surgery to move your stomach back into its proper place, below the hiatus.
The surgery to fix a hiatal hernia involves moving your stomach back into place and then securing and reinforcing it by supporting the muscles around it. This can be done with laparoscopic surgery, meaning a tiny camera and several small incisions are used to minimize the invasiveness of the surgery. This option is the most effective in ending symptoms permanently.