What Is Hiatal Hernia: An Overview

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  • A hiatal hernia develops when a portion of your stomach passes through an opening in your diaphragm, potentially causing complications in your esophagus
  • There are three main types of hiatal hernia that you can develop. These are sliding hiatal hernia, para-esophageal hiatal hernia and strangulated hernia

A hiatal hernia develops when a portion of your stomach passes through an opening in your diaphragm, potentially causing complications in your esophagus. There are several organs involved in this condition:1

Esophagus: The tube where food passes down to your stomach.

Diaphragm: A large muscle that sits between your stomach and the lungs. Its purpose is to separate the digestive organs from the upper chest organs. It’s also the muscle responsible for breathing.2

Hiatus: A small opening in the diaphragm that allows the esophagus to reach the stomach.

Stomach: The organ responsible for digesting the food you eat.

3 Types of Hiatal Hernia You Can Develop

There are three main types of hiatal hernia that you can develop. They are known as:3,4

Sliding Hiatal Hernia

The herniated portion of the stomach constantly slides up and down through the hiatus every time you swallow.

Para-Esophageal Hiatal Hernia

This is the opposite of a sliding hiatal hernia. Instead, a portion of the stomach is fixed above the hiatus, which is why it is sometimes known as fixed hiatal hernia.

Strangulated Hernia

Strangulated hernia is a possible complication that can arise from para-esophageal hiatal hernia. It’s when the hernia becomes strangled and blood supply is cut off. Eventually, this causes tissue to die, and you will need immediate medical treatment to remedy the situation.

How Is a Hiatal Hernia Diagnosed?

There are several ways your doctor can diagnose hiatal hernia. These procedures include:5,6,7

Esophagram or Barium Swallow

The goal of an esophagram is to test the functionality of your esophagus. This will help your doctor pinpoint possible issues in your diaphragm, such as a hiatal hernia or if there are any strangled organs.

You will need to drink a liquid mixed with barium before taking an X-ray exam. The resulting X-ray images will highlight your digestive tract, making the diagnosis easier and faster.

Endoscopy

A small tube equipped with a flashlight and video camera at the tip will be inserted down your throat. It will be used to examine the extensiveness of the hernia and look for any possible physical damage.

Manometry

A catheter will be inserted in your nose and down to your stomach. It will take pressure and movement readings from your esophagus.

pH Level Test

The test will check if stomach acid is present in your esophagus.

Treatment Methods Available for Hiatal Hernia

There are various ways to treat a hiatal hernia. Usually, the first recommendation is to eat smaller meals throughout the day. This will help put less strain on your stomach, while still being able to meet your daily nutritional needs. Other recommended methods include exercising to help remove excess weight on your chest, and avoiding foods that can cause heartburn such as tomatoes, onions, spicy foods and alcohol.8

It’s possible to repair hiatal hernia through surgery. However, it should only be discussed as a last resort if all other treatments have failed, due to the risk of developing complications in the future. If you choose to undergo surgery, discuss with your doctor the best method to repair your hernia with the lowest risks involved.9

MORE ABOUT HIATAL HERNIA

Hiatal Hernia: Introduction

What Is Hiatal Hernia?

Hiatal Hernia Symptoms

Hiatal Hernia Causes

Hiatal Hernia Types

Hiatal Hernia Treatment

Hiatal Hernia Surgery

Hiatal Hernia Prevention

Hiatal Hernia Diet

Hiatal Hernia FAQ

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