Hiatal Hernia

What is a Hiatal Hernia?

A hiatal hernia is a condition in which the stomach protrudes into the chest through the hiatus, which is an opening in the diaphragm. The diaphragm is a muscular wall that functions by separating the chest from the abdomen. The hiatus is a small opening in this muscular wall that allows the esophagus to deliver food into the stomach. There are two types of hiatal hernias that you may experience.

1. Sliding hiatal hernia: This is the most common type of hiatal hernia. During a sliding hiatal hernia, the stomach and a portion of the esophagus that connects to the stomach slide upwards into the chest through the hiatus.

2. Paraesophageal hernia: This type of hiatal hernia is much less common, but is also much more severe than a sliding hiatal hernia. During this type of hernia, part of the stomach protrudes through the hiatus and pushes up against the esophagus. This can become a serious condition because this blockage could lead to the stomach being cut off from its blood supply.

For many people, hiatal hernias develop without any signs or symptoms. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease is a common co-morbid condition that is often experienced alongside hiatal hernias. While hiatal hernias do not cause heartburn or acid reflux directly, these symptoms are often experienced in conjunction with the condition.

The exact cause of hiatal hernias is unclear. Often, patients that develop the condition were naturally born with an increased risk for developing a hernia due to an enlarged hiatal opening. Other possible causes include:

• Pregnancy

• Obesity

• Severe or chronic cough

• Straining during bowel movements

Individuals over the age of 50 and those that are overweight are at an increased risk of developing hiatal hernias. In addition, women are more likely to develop the condition than are men. Generally, a hiatal hernia can be diagnosed with the use of a specialized x-ray and barium swallow, or via an endoscopy. Due to the lack of symptoms, many patients do not require any treatment for hiatal hernias. However, patients that suffer from paraesophageal hernias do occasionally require surgery. Surgery for hiatal hernia repair is performed laparoscopically, which means that the operation is minimally invasive. Dr. Bass is able to repair the hernia for patients in Ft. Myers with the use of laparoscopic tools through minor incisions in the abdominal wall. Laparoscopic hernia repair offers many benefits over other forms of surgery, including minimal scarring, reduced risk of complications, and a faster recovery.