Hiatal hernias occur when a patient’s diaphragm muscle has become weakened or defective, allowing the upper portion of the stomach to push up and into the chest cavity. In many cases, a small hiatal hernia may not be noticed, and it may not require surgery.
However, a mid-to-large size hiatal hernia is potentially very serious. In extreme cases, it can adversely impact organs and tissues. In more common instances, consistent heartburn and excessive acid reflux are the primary symptoms. Here are some important things you should know about hiatal hernia repair:
Non-Surgical Treatments for Hiatal Hernia
Many with a hiatal hernia may not experience any signs or symptoms, and may be unaware that they have it. People with hiatal hernias may attribute the frequent heartburn to other causes (which indeed, may be exacerbating the condition). For many who are diagnosed, simple medications to ease heartburn can be effective along with some nutrition and lifestyle changes. These include:
- Avoid spicy foods, fruit juices, alcohol, caffeine, chocolate, and mint
- Eat several small meals during the day
- Keep your head elevated
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Avoid lying down after you eat
- Quit smoking
Surgical Repair Options
Hiatal hernia surgery is most commonly performed in one of two ways:
Laparoscopic surgery is minimally invasive. It requires several small incisions through which the surgeon inserts a tiny camera and special surgical tools. The smaller incisions mean that most patients recover faster and have fewer scars. The minimally invasive nature of this procedure puts less stress on other organs in your body.
The traditional ‘open’ hernia repair surgical method involves a single incision in the upper abdomen so the affected area can be accessed and repaired. The surgeon may opt to suture the stomach to connective tissues in the abdomen before closing the incision. The traditional method can lead to more scarring and slower recovery times than the laparoscopic technique. However, it is more suitable for certain patients with subjective health needs.
In rare circumstances, large hiatal hernias require surgery that pulls the stomach back into its normal location. Some suffering from a hiatal hernia may also need to have their diaphragmatic opening repaired to keep the organs in the abdominal cavity.
Recovery Times Following Hiatal Hernia Surgery
Following laparoscopic surgery, most patients are able to return to their normal activities within a week. Traditional surgery methods often take two to three weeks for full recovery.
With either surgery option, a patient needs to protect the incision points from infection or undue stress, as the area will remain tender for several days to a week. Our hiatal hernia repair specialists, Dr. Robert Marsh and Dr. Anthony Kim and their team of clinical care professionals will provide you with post-surgical care instructions.