MOST FOLKS associate a hernia with a swelling in the groin or belly, but the term can be broadly applied to any unnatural defect that exists in the body. Hiatal hernias are a type of internal hernia that occurs in the diaphragm, specifically right where the esophagus crosses to the stomach. These hernias don’t present as swellings, but with persistent gastrointestinal problems.
Many of us suffer with occasional acid reflux and indigestion. This is usually related to our diet, caffeine and alcohol intake, smoking, or stress. Adjustments to diet and lifestyle, and sometimes medication, typically can control these symptoms and we can go on with our lives. However, despite multiple pills, diets, and changes in habits, some people continue to have symptoms. These people may be suffering from a hiatal hernia.
HOW CAN I FIND OUT IF I HAVE A HIATAL HERNIA?
It can be diagnosed with either a CAT scan or endoscopy. If you are having recurring or worsening acid reflux despite therapy, ask your physician if you are a candidate for either of these studies.
HOW IS IT FIXED?
If medical management has been maximized and relief is still inadequate, surgical repair may be an option. Repair of the hernia can be performed laparoscopically, sometimes on an outpatient basis, to provide long-term relief.
It is important to bear in mind that not all hiatal hernias are symptomatic. Sometimes they are discovered inadvertently on CAT scan or endoscopy in patients who otherwise have no symptoms of acid reflux. In such instances, medications or surgery usually are unnecessary. Each case is specific, so discussion with your doctor is always the best starting point.
This column is sponsored by Heart of Florida Regional Medical Center.
column by DR. SHIVA SEETAHAL
BIO: Dr. Shiva Seetahal is a board-certified general surgeon who specializes in minimally-invasive procedures. He has published over 20 scientific articles and book chapters. For questions related to surgical health, you can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call his office at (863) 421-7626 to schedule an appointment.