Hiatal Hernia (cont.)
Martin E Zipser, MD
In this Article
How is a hiatal hernia diagnosed?
Hiatal hernias are diagnosed incidentally when an upper gastrointestinal X-ray or endoscopy is done during testing to determine the cause of upper gastrointestinal symptoms such as upperabdominal pain. On both the X-ray and endoscopy, the hiatal hernia appears as a separate "sac" lying between what is clearly the esophagus and what is clearly the stomach. This sac is delineated by the lower esophageal sphincter above and the diaphragm below. The hernia may only be visible during swallows, however.
How is a hiatal hernia treated?
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Treatment of large para-esophageal hernias causing symptoms requires surgery. During surgery, the stomach is pulled down into the abdomen, the esophageal hiatus is made smaller, and the esophagus is attached firmly to the diaphragm. This procedure restores the normal anatomy.
Since sliding hiatal hernias rarely cause problems themselves but rather contribute to acid reflux, the treatment for patients with hiatal hernias is usually the same as for the associated GERD. If the GERD is severe, complicated, or unresponsive to reasonable doses of medications, surgery often is performed. At the time of surgery, the hiatal hernia is eliminated in a manner similar to the repair of para-esophageal hernias. However, in addition, part of the upper stomach is wrapped around the lower sphincter to augment the pressure at the sphincter and further prevent acid reflux.
Medically reviewed by Martin E Zipser, MD; American board of Surgery
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/7/2014
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