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Hiatal hernia
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Hiatal hernia

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DIGESTIVE SYSTEM
Diseases & Conditions  

When one part of the body protrudes through an opening into another part of the body, a hernia occurs. Hiatal hernias - also known as diaphragmatic hernias - form at the opening (hiatus) in diaphragm where the food pipe (esophagus) joins the stomach. When the muscle tissue around the hiatus becomes weak, the upper part of your stomach may bulge through the diaphragm into your chest cavity.

When to seek medical advice

Many people discover they have hiatal hernias when they see their doctor for another problem, such as heartburn. Most cases of heartburn are mild and temporary. But if your symptoms are severe, occur often, or are accompanied by coughing, wheezing, asthma, a sore throat, difficulty swallowing (dysphagia) or chest pain, talk to your doctor.

If you know you have a large hiatal hernia and experience severe chest pain, difficulty breathing or trouble swallowing, seek medical care immediately.

Screening and diagnosis

Your doctor may discover a hiatal hernia while trying to determine the cause of heartburn, or chest or upper abdominal pain. In that case, it's likely to be found during one of the following procedures:

  • Barium X-ray. During this diagnostic test, you'll drink a chalky liquid (barium) that coats, fills and outlines your upper digestive tract. This provides a clear silhouette of your esophagus, stomach and the upper part of your small intestine (duodenum) on an X-ray. A barium X-ray may help reveal whether the contents of your stomach are backing up into your esophagus.

  • Endoscopy. In this test your doctor gently passes a thin, flexible tube equipped with a fiber-optic light and video camera system (endoscope) down your throat and into your esophagus and stomach to check for inflammation. This is the most sensitive way to check for esophagitis from acid reflux. It can also help determine whether you have a hiatal hernia.

Hiatal hernia > 1 > 2 > 3 > 4

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Last Modified : 03/15/08 12:25 AM