A hiatal hernia is a medical condition that occurs when part of the stomach protrudes through the diaphragm and into the chest cavity. It can be further categorized as either sliding hiatal hernia or paraesophageal hiatal hernia. Sliding hiatal hernias are more common, involving a slight displacement of the stomach where it passes through the diaphragm. Paraesophageal hiatal hernias involve an upward displacement of a portion of the stomach next to the esophagus and through the diaphragm. Both types may cause difficulty swallowing, chest pain, heartburn, and other symptoms.
Symptoms of hiatal hernia include:
– Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)
– A feeling of food stuck in the throat
– Chest pain or discomfort, which may be worse after eating
– Heartburn, which is a burning sensation in the chest that often occurs after eating
– Nausea and vomiting
– Coughing or wheezing.
It is important to see a doctor as soon as possible if you think you may have hiatal hernia. Early diagnosis and treatment can help reduce the risk of complications. Even if symptoms are mild, hiatal hernias can lead to serious health problems if left untreated. If symptoms become more persistent or worsen, you should speak to your doctor who may refer you for an endoscopy or other tests.
A hiatal hernia should not be confused with diastasis rectii or ventral hernias, which are separate medical conditions. A hiatal hernia is not visible on physical examination. Diastasis rectii is a separation of the abdominal muscles that can cause bloating and shifting of organs in the abdomen. Ventral hernias involve a protrusion of tissue through an abnormal opening in the abdominal wall. Both diastasis rectii and ventral hernias require surgical repair to treat.
How do you check for a hiatal hernia?
The most common method of diagnosing a hiatal hernia is endoscopy, where a small camera is used to examine the inside of the esophagus and stomach. Other methods include an esophagram, which shows an X-ray image of the area; or a CT scan to get a complete picture of the abdominal organs. The doctor may also take measurements or use other tests to identify the problem.
What should I do when diagnosed with a hiatal hernia?
If you are diagnosed with a hiatal hernia, your doctor may recommend lifestyle changes or medications to reduce symptoms. These include:
– Avoiding foods that trigger heartburn and reflux, such as greasy or spicy foods, alcohol and caffeine
– Eating smaller meals more often throughout the day instead of two or three large meals
– Quitting smoking, if applicable
– Sleeping in an elevated position with the head of the bed raised 6 to 8 inches
– Taking over-the-counter antacids or acid blockers as recommended by your doctor
– Reducing stress levels through relaxation techniques such as yoga or meditation
If you have reflux or a hiatal hernia greater than 2 cm, you should be evaluated by a surgeon for surgical repair. The goal of surgery is to repair the hernia and bring the stomach back into its proper position in the abdomen. The procedure involves using sutures to close off any openings in the diaphragm that are allowing the herniation of the stomach. Surgery can often provide long-term relief from symptoms associated with hiatal hernia and help prevent complications such as gastric ulceration, gastric volvulus or Barrett’s esophagus. These procedures should be performed by a foregut surgeon who performs these on a regular basis. The surgery is usually performed laparoscopically or robotically and patients usually go home the same day.
How do you find a hiatal hernia specialist?
If you are looking for a Tampa-based hiatal hernia specialist, there are several options. Your primary care physician can provide a referral to a qualified surgeon who specializes in foregut surgery and is experienced in treating hiatal hernias. The American College of Surgeons can also help you find surgeons in your area who specialize in foregut surgery.
At Tampa Bay Reflux Institute, Dr. Grandhige, a foregut surgeon, has performed over 1,000 hiatal hernia repairs. His expertise lies in selecting the right treatment for the right patient. He takes a holistic approach and considers lifestyle factors, family history, diet and other factors in selecting the best course of treatment for each patient.
With Tampa Bay Reflux Institute’s personalized treatment plans, patients can rest assured that their care is being handled with the utmost attention to detail and expertise. Dr. Grandhige’s team has years of experience in treating hiatal hernias and is dedicated to providing the best outcomes possible. If you are in Tampa or nearby areas looking for a hiatal hernia specialist, contact Tampa Bay Reflux Institute today. They will be happy to answer any questions you may have about your condition and available treatments.