What Is a Hiatal Hernia?
Normally, the large muscle that separates the abdomen and chest (diaphragm) has a small opening (hiatus) through which the esophagus passes before connecting to the stomach. A hiatal hernia occurs when the upper part of the stomach bulges through this small gap into your chest.
Hiatal Hernia Symptoms
Usually, a small hiatal hernia doesn’t cause any symptoms and you might not even know you have it. On the other hand, a larger hiatal hernia can lead to the following symptoms:
- Food regurgitation and acid reflux
- Chest or abdominal pain
- Nausea or vomiting
Causes of Hiatal Hernia
A hiatal hernia occurs as the result of the weakness in the muscle fibers surrounding the esophagus’ opening, which allows the stomach to create a bulge through the diaphragm. The main reason for this condition is not clear, but there are some risk factors related, including:
- Direct trauma or surgery in the area
- Congenital large hiatus
Hiatal Hernia Treatment
Most cases of hiatal hernia don’t require any specific treatment because the patient may not be suffering any symptoms. However, those who present moderate to severe symptoms will need medication or surgery in order to solve the problem.
If you present minor symptoms like occasional heartburn or acid reflux, your doctor might recommend:
- Medication to reduce stomach acid production
- Stomach acid blockers
Hiatal Hernia Surgery
Surgery will be required in those cases of persistent symptoms after proper medication or if any complication appears, like the hernia being trapped in the chest. The surgery involves pulling the stomach bulge back into place and repairing the stretched esophageal hiatus. The procedure can be done using a laparoscopic technique, by using small surgical tools inserted through small incisions in your abdomen. This technique will reduce considerably the recuperation time and pain. The operation usually takes about 45 minutes.
According to your recovery and progression, you might be able to go home the day after your surgery. At home, it’s important to keep all the dietary recommendation from your doctor, increasing gradually the amount and consistency of the food you take. Returning to your regular activities usually, take about 2 weeks.