A hiatel hernia is when a part of the stomach or bowel protrudes through an opening in the diaphragm. The muscle of the diaphragm is weak at a particular area which allows the gut to come up superiorly into the thoracic cavity. Most of these hernias are congenital anomolies but a few develop later in life.
Signs and symptoms of HH are similar to gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), and include abdominal and or chest pain, epigastric burning sensations, and heartburn.
Hiatel hernias can be a serious condition because if the stomach or bowel becomes incarcerated in the thorax it can lose it's blood supply and start to necrose. The bowel can also perforate spilling the contents into the thoracic cavity. This event is a true surgical emergency because the patient will develop a septicemia rather quickly.
A hiatal hernia is when part of the stomach protrudes through the diaphragm and goes up into the chest. Approximately 15% of the population have a hiatal hernia. It is generally thought that people who have hiatal hernias have a large esophageal hiatus. The esophageal hiatus is the opening in the diaphragm through which the esophagus passes from the chest to the abdomen.
The larger the hernia the more likely there are to be symptoms present. The most common symptoms are those that come from GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease). Symptoms of GERD include heartburn, regurgitation, and nausea.
People who have a severe hiatal hernia usually require surgery. Otherwise, the symptoms of GERD are usually treated.