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|Classification and external resources|
There are two major kinds of hiatus hernia:
- The most common (95%) is the sliding hiatus hernia, where the gastroesophageal junction moves above the diaphragm together with some of the stomach.
- The second kind is rolling (or paraesophageal) hiatus hernia, when a part of the stomach herniates through the esophageal hiatus and lies beside the esophagus, without movement of the gastroesophageal junction. It accounts for the remaining 5% of hiatus hernias. 
A third kind is also sometimes described, and is a combination of the first and second kinds.
Incidence of hiatal hernias increases with age; approximately 60% of individuals aged 50 or older have a hiatal hernia. Of these, 9% are symptomatic, depending on the competence of the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). 95% of these are "sliding" hiatus hernias, in which the LES protrudes above the diaphragm along with the stomach, and only 5% are the "rolling" type (paraesophageal), in which the LES remains stationary but the stomach protrudes above the diaphragm. People of all ages can get this condition, but it is more common in older people.
According to Dr. Denis Burkitt, "Hiatus hernia has its maximum prevalence in economically developed communities in North America and Western Europe ... In contrast the disease is rare in situations typified by rural African communities." Burkitt attributes the disease to insufficient dietary fiber and the use of the unnatural sitting position for defecation. Both factors create the need for straining at stool, increasing intraabdominal pressure and pushing the stomach through the esophageal hiatus in the diaphragm.
The following are risk factors that can result in a hiatus hernia.
- Increased pressure within the abdomen caused by:
- Smoking
- Drug use, such as cocaine
- Diaphragm weakness
Signs and symptoms
Hiatal hernia has often been called the "great mimic" because its symptoms can resemble many disorders. For example, a person with this problem can experience dull pains in the chest, shortness of breath (caused by the hernia's effect on the diaphragm), heart palpitations (due to irritation of the vagus nerve), and swallowed food "balling up" and causing discomfort in lower esophagus until it passes on to stomach.
In most cases however, a hiatal hernia does not cause any symptoms. The pain and discomfort that a patient experiences is due to the reflux of gastric acid, air, or bile. While there are several causes of acid reflux, it does happen more frequently in the presence of hiatal hernia.
In most cases, sufferers experience no discomfort and no treatment is required. However, when the hiatal hernia is large, or is of the paraesophageal type, it is likely to cause esophageal stricture and discomfort. Symptomatic patients should elevate the head of their beds and avoid lying down directly after meals until treatment is rendered. If the condition has been brought on by stress, stress reduction techniques may be prescribed, or if overweight, weight loss may be indicated. Medications that reduce the lower esophageal sphincter (or LES) pressure should be avoided. Antisecretory drugs like proton pump inhibitors and H2 receptor blockers can be used to reduce acid secretion.
The surgical procedure used is called Nissen fundoplication. In fundoplication, the gastric fundus (upper part) of the stomach is wrapped, or plicated, around the inferior part of the esophagus, preventing herniation of the stomach through the hiatus in the diaphragm and the reflux of gastric acid. The procedure is now commonly performed laparoscopically. With proper patient selection, laparoscopic fundoplication has low complication rates and a quick recovery.
Complications include gas bloat syndrome, dysphagia (trouble swallowing), dumping syndrome, excessive scarring, and rarely, achalasia. The procedure sometimes fails over time, requiring a second surgery to make repairs.
- 01011 at CHORUS
- Lawrence, P. (1992). Essentials of General Surgery. Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins. p. 178. ISBN 0-683-04869-4.
- Goyal Raj K, "Chapter 286. Diseases of the Esophagus". Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 17e.
- Burkitt DP (1981). "Hiatus hernia: is it preventable?". Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 34 (3): 428–31. PMID 6259926.
- Sontag S (1999). "Defining GERD". Yale J Biol Med 72 (2-3): 69–80. PMC 2579007. PMID 10780568.
- Lange CMDT 2006
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