Millions will experience a hiatal hernia in their lifetime. It is defined by the protrusion of the stomach into the chest cavity; the uncomfortable sensation can be similar to heartburn, and it can be caused by many factors. No matter the cause, the digestive team of specialists at Florida Hospital offers a full range of proven procedures to correct hiatal hernias and bring comfort to those suffering from it. Make an appointment with one of our digestive health specialists today.
What is a hiatal hernia?
A hernia is a protrusion of part of an organ through the muscle wall that surrounds it. A hiatal hernia occurs when the upper part of the stomach pushes up into the chest through a small opening in the diaphragm, the muscle that separates the abdomen from the chest. A hiatal hernia results in retention of acid and other contents since the stomach tends to get squeezed by this opening in the diaphragm. These acids and other substances can easily back up (reflux) into the esophagus.
There are two types of hiatal hernias--a sliding hiatal hernia, meaning the stomach intermittently slides up into the chest, and a paraesophageal hernia, which occurs when a portion of the stomach pushes up into the chest adjacent to the esophagus. Most of the time, a hiatal hernia does not produce symptoms, however, heartburn, belching, nausea, vomiting, and regurgitation (backflow of stomach content into the esophagus or throat) can be present with a sliding hiatal hernia. More severe symptoms are usually associated with a paraesophageal hernia.
A doctor will perform a medical exam and medical history. A chest X-ray, upper endoscopy, barium swallow, or manometry, a test to measure the pressure in the esophagus, may be ordered to confirm the diagnosis.
Many people age 50 and over have small hiatal hernias; however, hiatal hernias may affect people of all ages.