If you've been diagnosed with a hiatal hernia, hernia surgery may be an option for you. At Northern Westchester Hospital, our thoracic surgery specialists perform minimally invasive procedures to repair herniations in the diaphragm using the da Vinci Surgical System.
Call us at 877-469-4362 or click here to request a consultation with one of our hernia surgery specialists.
What Is a Hiatal Hernia?
A hiatal hernia is a condition that develops when a portion of the upper stomach protrudes through the diaphragm - the thin muscle wall between the chest and the abdomen.
In most cases, a hiatal hernia is the result of excess pressure in the abdominal cavity caused by:
- Persistent coughing or choking
- Heavy lifting
- Swelling and/or fluid in the abdominal cavity
- Constipation (straining to have a bowel movement)
- Trauma to the abdomen
While anyone can develop a hiatal hernia, this condition is most common among people aged 50 and older, people who smoke, and people who are overweight or obese.
Symptoms of a Hiatal Hernia
Many people with a hiatal hernia are asymptomatic (showing no symptoms); however, those who do experience symptoms may have one or more of the following issues:
- Belching, especially after eating acidic foods such as citrus fruits
- Bloating and pressure through the chest
- Discomfort in the upper stomach
- A recurring bitter and/or sour taste in the back of the throat
- Shortness of breath
- Acid reflux
- Trouble swallowing and/or choking while eating
In some cases, people with a hiatal hernia may even experience chest pain, a symptom that is also related to heart attacks. If you experience chest pain, seek medical assistance immediately.
Treatment of Hiatal Hernias
Patients who have pain and discomfort associated with a hiatal hernia are often advised to modify their diet and lifestyle to manage their condition. Lifestyle changes may include:
- Reducing portion size of meals and snacks
- Avoiding acidic foods and beverages that can irritate the lining of the esophagus
- Limiting intake of coffee, tea, chocolate, carbonated beverages, and peppermint
- Sleeping with the upper body slightly elevated to reduce risk of reflux
- Using over-the-counter acid reducers following each meal
Patients who are overweight often find that shedding excess pounds helps to relieve abdominal pressure, which in turn reduces gastric reflux and discomfort. Quitting smoking, fasting for three to four hours before bedtime, and avoiding tight, restrictive clothing can also minimize pressure on the stomach.
Minimally-Invasive Hernia Surgery
Patients with a hiatal hernia that cannot be effectively managed with medication and lifestyle changes may require hernia surgery. Emergency surgery may also be indicated when blood flow to the herniated portion of the stomach becomes severely restricted.
Traditional surgical treatment of a hiatal hernia involves open surgical techniques; this means creating long incisions in the upper chest to access the hernia.
Whenever possible, our surgeons at Northern Westchester Hospital perform minimally invasive laparoscopic hernia surgery using the da Vinci Surgical System.
During this innovative procedure, four to six tiny incisions are made in the abdomen, and specialized surgical instruments and cameras are passed through these incisions down to the site of the hernia.
The surgeon makes a series of precise movements via the robotic surgical system to re-position the herniated segment back into the abdomen. He or she then re-enforces the weakened area of the diaphragm muscle by wrapping the upper part of the stomach around the lower section of the esophagus, creating a tight sphincter to prevent stomach contents from refluxing upwards.
Robot-assisted laparoscopic hernia surgery is a safe, effective treatment option for people who require hiatal hernia surgery. When compared to traditional, open surgical techniques, laparoscopic surgery, particularly robotic hernia surgery, requires much smaller incisions and shorter hospital stays.
At Northern Westchester Hospital, we combine hernia surgeons with leading-edge robotic technology to deliver exceptional care close to home.
For more information or to schedule a consultation with one of our hernia surgery specialists here at NWH, complete our online contact form or call us at 877-469-4362.