What is a Hiatal Hernia?
A hiatal hernia is when a portion of the stomach moves into a location in the chest where it does not belong. There are essentially two types of hiatal hernias, a sliding hernia, and a paraesophageal hernia. The sliding hernia is when the stomach and the gastroesophageal junction slide up into the chest. This is the more common type of hiatal hernia and can be found in smokers, overweight individuals and women over 50 years old. A paraesophageal hernia is when the gastroesophageal junction stays where it is supposed to be, but a slip of the stomach gets pinned between the gastroesophageal junction and the diaphragm. This is more likely to cause severe symptoms over hiatal hernias.
Symptoms of a Hiatal Hernia
Some of the symptoms of a hiatal hernia might include severe and persistent heartburn that changes when you move by leaning forward, straining or when you lie down. In some cases, the patient might experience chronic belching, regurgitation and in some people, severe chest pain or difficulty swallowing or breathing. There are some patients that never experience any symptoms from the hernia and do not need any treatment at all.
Hiatal Hernia Repair
In some patients, there is little or no need for any kind of repair or treatment plan. Some might even find relief from any symptoms that they experience by changing their diet to smaller more frequent meals, avoiding food before bed and changing the types of foods eaten to those that will cause less stomach acid to formulate. In others such as those that have a hernia that could cause the dislocated stomach part to die off due to lack of blood flow, a surgical procedure may be recommended. For those patients, it is likely that a laparoscopic procedure may be recommended.
A laparoscopic procedure for a hiatal hernia is when a laparoscopic tool that contains a light and camera is inserted through a small incision in the abdomen. The surgeon then locates the hernia and looks over the situation. Once they have discovered the issue, the professional will use a small tool to relocate the stomach that has been displaced back to its original location. In some cases, there is additional work to be done such as stitching the stomach so that it doesn’t go back to the same position and possibly stitching the hole where the stomach might have slipped through in the first place to prevent future problems.
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Hiatal Hernia Recovery Process
The laparoscopic procedure is not typically a long procedure and in many cases, the patient can go home the same day. After the procedure, the medical team will take time to make sure that everything went well and that you are recovering from the procedure. They will then give you instructions on how to handle the next few days at home including making that you take it easy and get some rest. You will likely be instructed to eat small meals that do not require a great deal of work on the part of the stomach to digest. It is likely that you will see the surgeon for some follow up appointments to make sure that you are doing well and that the wound is healing. They will want to watch for bleeding, infection and any discomfort on your part around the incision area and within your stomach.
The results of the laparoscopic procedure should be easy to see and in a short amount of time. The physician may recommend some tests to see if things are healing as they should and they might want to keep track of your progress over the next several months.