Understanding the Purpose of Hiatal Hernia Surgery

A hiatal hernia occurs when the upper part of the stomach bulges out and penetrates the chest cavity due to a tear or weakness in the diaphragm. Hiatal hernia surgery resolves this tear or weakness and strengthens the affected muscular walls.  Generally, a hernia causes no symptoms. However, as the condition progresses, it can cause gastrointestinal reflux disease. This causes food and acid to go back up into your esophagus, thus necessitating surgery.

Read on to learn more about hernia surgery. 

Diagnosis-Related to Hiatal Hernia Surgery

Hernia surgery can treat signs of GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) and hiatal hernia, including:

  • Nausea and vomiting 
  • Persistent heartburn
  • Difficulty swallowing 
  • Persistent belching
  • Chest pain while eating
  • Hoarseness 
  • Pain or discomfort in chest, stomach, or esophagus
  • Anemia 
  • Scarring, bleeding, or inflammation of the esophagus
  • Fatigue 

However, surgery is not the first option. Your doctor may recommend medications and lifestyle changes to treat the hernia. If they fail to work, surgery will be considered.

Hiatal hernia is diagnosed depending on its severity, ranging from grade one (the mildest type) to grade four (the most severe type): 

  • Sliding Hiatal Hernia (Grade one) – The stomach freely moves in and out of the chest cavity. It may or may not cause symptoms.
  • Paraesophageal Hernia (Grade four) – The stomach moves permanently out of position, causing interruptions in blood supply and ulcers.

Who Are Good Candidates for Hiatal Hernia Surgery?

Good candidates for hiatal hernia surgery are those who have:

  • Persistent symptoms when medications are stopped
  • Disruptions in blood supply to the stomach
  • Healthy heart and lungs
  • Correct weight, as obesity increases risks and impacts recovery 
  • Good abdominal health 

Lab Tests

Your doctor may recommend these tests to diagnose a hiatal hernia and determine its severity. 

  • Barium swallow/upper GI X-ray – X-rays are taken after you drink a special liquid that magnifies imaging. This test helps to assess the hernia’s size and scale.
  • 24 Hour pH Test – This determines acidity levels and damage in the esophagus using a catheter that is connected to a computer for monitoring. Patients should be continuously monitored for 24 hours to get the full picture.
  • Endoscopy – This provides real-time video of the hernia using an endoscope.  
  • Esophageal Manometry – This involves a small, thin catheter that measures the muscle contractions in your esophagus when you swallow.  

Hiatal hernia surgery is a safe and effective procedure. Though there are complications, minimally-invasive techniques used today have reduced the risks associated with the surgery. The UK’s National Health Service reveals that 85% to 90% of patients are satisfied with this surgery. This procedure can effectively treat GERD and hernia symptoms, improving your health and wellness for a long period.  

For more information on hiatal hernia surgery, contact us today.

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Dr. Madhu Prasad, M.D., FACS

Dr. Madhu Prasad has over 30+ years of experience working as a general surgeon and surgical oncologist and providing the highest level of care in Anchorage, Alaska. He believes in providing quality care to patients and their families. Inspired by compassion and humanism, Dr. Prasad and his team work for the well-being of their patients.

Alaska Cancer Treatment Center

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