A hiatal hernia occurs when the upper part of the stomach pushes up through the opening in the diaphragm, pushing the stomach up into the chest.
About Hiatal Hernias
At around 6 weeks of gestation, the folds in tissue that form the front abdominal wall of the fetus may not close completely, resulting in an opening or defect in the baby’s belly known as gastroschisis. The hernia (when an internal organ or other body part protrudes through the wall of muscle or tissue that normally contains it) is located to the right of the umbilical cord, allowing the baby’s small intestines, and sometimes the large intestines, to protrude into the fluid surrounding the fetus (amniotic sac). Because the fluid is sterile (no infection is present) and the temperature of the fluid is constant (the same temperature as the pregnant mother), the intestines, although herniated, typically develop normally. On occasion, a blockage in the intestines (intestinal atresia) can occur. An atresia does not present a problem for the fetus since the baby is not using the intestines for food adsorption while in the womb.
Treating Hiatal Hernias
Hiatal hernias are diagnosed by both upper endoscopy or barium swallow. All new patients undergo a specialized barium swallow to assess for the presence of a hiatal hernia. The symptoms of hiatal hernias can sometimes be treated with medication and lifestyle changes alone. Some hernias, especially large ones, require surgical intervention. These surgeries are performed laparoscopically through small incisions in the abdomen. The most important thing in considering surgery is to see a surgeon who specializes in treating hiatal hernias. There are multiple studies that demonstrate that surgeons who specialize in foregut have better outcomes in these types of surgery.
Care Team Approach
Digestive Health, a clinical partnership between Ascension Seton and UT Health Austin, takes a multidisciplinary approach to your care. This means you will benefit from the expertise of multiple specialists across a variety of disciplines. Your care team will include gastroenterologists, surgical and non-surgical heartburn and esophageal disorders specialists, physician assistants, nurses, advanced practice providers, dietitians, social workers, and more, providing unparalleled care for patients every step of the way. We collaborate with our colleagues at the Dell Medical School and The University of Texas at Austin to utilize the latest research, diagnostic, and treatment techniques, allowing us to identify new therapies to improve treatment outcomes. We are committed to communicating and coordinating your care with your other healthcare providers to ensure that we are providing you with comprehensive, whole-person care.