A hiatal hernia occurs when the upper part of the stomach pushes up through the opening in the diaphragm, allowing the stomach to be in the chest. Hiatal hernias are an anatomical change that allows for increased reflux symptoms, like heartburn and regurgitation. Hiatal hernias are diagnosed on imaging studies (Barium swallow, CT) or upper endoscopy and they can vary in size. Small hernias (often less than 3cm) are often able to be managed with medical therapy. Large hiatal hernias (greater than 5cm) can lead to chest pain, shortness of breath, and trouble swallowing. Hiatal hernias, especially large ones, can become quite serious and require surgical intervention. In fact, the only way to reduce a hiatal hernia is through surgical intervention.
Treating Hiatal Hernias at UT Health Austin
Hiatal hernias are diagnosed by both upper endoscopy or barium swallow. At UT Health Austin, all of our new patients undergo a specialized barium swallow to assess for the presence of a hiatal hernia. The symptoms of hiatal hernias can sometimes be treated with medication and lifestyle changes alone. Some hernias, especially large ones, require surgical intervention. Here at UT Health Austin, these surgeries are performed laparoscopically through small incisions in the abdomen. The most important thing in considering surgery is to see a surgeon who specializes in treating hiatal hernias. There are multiple studies that demonstrate that surgeons who specialize in foregut have better outcomes in these types of surgery. Your UT Health Austin surgeons have dedicated their practice to diseases of the foregut.
About the Heartburn and Esophageal Disorders Center
The UT Health Austin Heartburn and Esophageal Disorders Center has assembled a team of experts that includes a gastroenterologist, surgeons, and associate providers, imaging experts, a dietitian and social workers. This team enables us to provide the right care for the right patient at the right time. For some patients, nonsurgical interventions such as lifestyle modifications and medications can help improve symptoms of reflux, while surgery may be the best course of action for others. Whatever your needs, our team is here to listen and work with you to develop a treatment plan that is right for you.