About 15 percent of Americans suffer from Hiatal Hernias. The condition occurs when part of the stomach pushes upward through the diaphragm through a small opening called the hiatus. Small hiatal hernias are common; many do not even know they have them. However, if the hernia is large, the patient will suffer a range of gastrointestinal problems, including chronic acid reflux, heartburn and chest pain. These large hiatal hernias are also often accompanied by belching and nausea. If these symptoms have begun to interrupt your life, see your doctor or consult an expert gastroenterologist at The Jackson Clinic, a minimally invasive option may be available.
Hiatal hernias are caused by the weakening of muscle tissue around the hiatus, whether from injury to that area, applying regular pressure to the surrounding muscles, or a natural muscular weakness. Particularly at risk for developing hiatal hernias are the obese, smokers and people over 50.
For many people suffering from hiatal hernia pain and discomfort, a combination of medication and lifestyle changes often alleviates symptoms. Doctors may recommend:
- Antacids—The over-the-counter drugs neutralize stomach acid and provide quick relief. However, they do not heal the inflamed esophagus and can, with overuse, cause diarrhea or constipation
- Acid Production Reducers—These drugs are available over-the-counter or, for stronger versions, by prescription. They do not offer the fast relief that antacids do, but do provide longer relief.
- Proton Pump Inhibitor—Like acid production reducers, these drugs offer more extended relief. Additionally, by blocking acid production, they allow time for the esophagus to heal. These medications are available over-the-counter and by prescription.
Certain lifestyle changes can also have a dramatic effect on the experienced symptoms of hiatal hernia. The Mayo Clinic suggests:
- Eating several smaller meals
- Avoiding foods that trigger heartburn
- Avoiding alcohol
- Limiting the amount of fatty foods consumed
- Sitting up after eating, rather than lying down
- Eating at least three hours before bedtime
- Losing weight if you are overweight or obese
- Stopping smoking
- Elevating the head of your bed about six inches
- Reducing stress in daily life
For a small number of hiatal hernia cases, surgery is required. Generally, this surgery is reserved for those whose symptoms are not relieved by medication or altering lifestyle.
Traditional hiatal hernia surgery is done by a general surgeon on an inpatient basis. Once the patient undergoes general anesthesia, the surgeon makes two incisions on both sides of the hernia. One incision is for laparoscope insertion and the other accommodates other surgical instruments. The surgeon locates the defect in the diaphragm and, if necessary, pulls the stomach back into the abdominal cavity.
Then, the top part of the stomach is wrapped around the end of the esophagus and retained with stiches or staples. In a few cases, the defect in the diaphragm is so large that it requires a graft repair. Finally, the two incisions are closed. Patients generally require two to four weeks for recovery, while protecting the incision areas from pressure.
If your gastroenterologist recommends surgery to repair your hiatal hernia, consider The Jackson Clinic’s revolutionary, minimally-invasive laparoscopic hiatal hernia surgery. If you are eligible, the benefits include:
- Less pain after the procedure
- Significantly reduced recovery time
- Fewer complications
- Less Scarring
The general laparoscopic surgeon at The Jackson Clinic serves patients, not only from Jackson and surrounding West Tennessee counties, but all over the Mid-South region. Patients come from Memphis, Tupelo, Jonesboro and Paducah to access benefits of The Jackson Clinic’s state-of-the-art laparoscopic procedures.