Search in�� ��for��
Career Center
New Hospital Update
Learn More About MCI
Bill Payment
Upcoming Events
Find a Physician
Press Releases
Maps and Directions
Visiting Hours
Medical Services
Specialty Programs and Services
Volunteer Services
Birthing Center Tours
Family Care of Eastern Jackson County
Jackson County Medical Group
Family & Friends
Virtual Body
Virtual Cheercards
Web Babies
Decision Tools
Self-Assessment Tools
Natural and Alternative Treatments Main Index
Health Sources
Cancer InDepth
Heart Care Center
HealthDay News
Wellness Centers
Aging and Health
Alternative Health
Sports and Fitness
Food and Nutrition
Men's Health
Mental Health
Kids' and Teens' Health
Healthy Pregnancy
Travel and Health
Women's Health
Genus MD
Genus MD
Physician Websites
Legal Disclaimers
Privacy Notice

Send This Page To A Friend
Print This Page

Hiatal Hernia

(Hiatus Hernia)

Pronounced: High-AY-tal HER-nee-uh



A large muscle separates the belly and chest spaces. A small opening in the muscle lets the esophagus pass from the chest into the belly. There it connects to the stomach. A hiatal hernia occurs when the stomach presses up into the chest through this hole.

Different types of hiatal hernias include:

  • Sliding hiatal hernia—Part of the stomach slides into and out of the chest cavity. This is the most common type.
  • Fixed hiatal hernia—Upper part of the stomach stays in the chest cavity.
  • Several other types may be seen. They are uncommon, but more serious. May need surgery.

Hiatal Hernia

Nucleus factsheet image

Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.


Causes    TOP

The exact cause of hiatal hernias is not clear. Some people are born with a hiatal hernia. Others will develop it later in life.

An injury to this opening can allow a hiatal hernia to start. This can happen in a trauma like a car accident. Increased pressure in the belly can also put a lot of stress on the area. Over time the area may weaken and allow the stomach to move up.


Risk Factors    TOP

Hiatal hernias are more common in adults over 50 years of age. Other factors that increase your chance of getting hiatal hernia include:

  • Obesity
  • Injury to the belly
  • Activities that increase pressure such as:
    • Severe coughing
    • Vomiting
    • Straining
    • Sudden physical exertion such as weight lifting

Symptoms    TOP

Hiatal hernias do not always cause symptoms.

Pressure on the stomach may push stomach acid move up into the throat. It can cause:

  • Heartburn, especially after eating or lying down
  • Pain or discomfort in the stomach, chest, or esophagus
  • Belching
  • Hoarseness
  • Frequent clearing of the throat from irritation
  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty swallowing

Diagnosis    TOP

Hiatal hernias are often accidentally found. It may be seen on tests for other issues. If you have symptoms, you will be asked about your past health. A physical exam will be done.

Images may be taken of your stomach. It will show the stomach in the chest. Test options include:


Treatment    TOP

Hiatal hernias do not always need treatment. Symptoms may need to be managed.

If acid is pushing up into esophagus often, the doctor may recommend:

Dietary Changes

Certain foods increase chance of heartburn. Try cutting out:

  • Chocolate
  • Peppermint
  • Fatty foods
  • Coffee
  • Alcoholic beverages

Avoid foods and beverages that can irritate the area such as:

  • Caffeine
  • Citrus fruits and juices
  • Tomato products
  • Hot peppers
  • Carbonated beverages

Other habits that may help include:

  • Eat small meals 4 to 6 times a day instead of 3 large meals.
  • Do not eat within 2 to 3 hours of bedtime.

Lifestyle Habits

  • If you smoke, talk to your doctor about ways to quit. Smoking can weaken tissue in the body.
  • Lose weight if you are overweight. Extra weight can increase pressure in the belly.
  • Avoid tight clothes or belts around the waist.
  • Avoid stooping or bending after meals. It puts increased pressure on the abdomen.
  • Lift head of bed to relieve heartburn at night.

Medicine    TOP

  • Over-the-counter antacids—to relieve heartburn.
  • Prescription medicine—for regular heartburn. H2 blockers and proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) can decrease acid in the stomach.

Surgery    TOP

Surgery may be needed if:

  • Symptoms are severe.
  • Hernia has twisted and cut off the flow of blood to the stomach. This is an emergency. It will need immediate surgery.

Prevention    TOP

There are no steps to prevent a hiatal hernia. The cause is mostly unknown.


American College of Gastroenterology

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases


Canadian Institute for Health Information

Health Canada


Acid reflux (GER & GERD) in adults. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/acid-reflux-ger-gerd-adults. Accessed March 23, 2018.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116914/Gastroesophageal-reflux-disease-GERD . Updated October 26, 2018. Accessed March 23, 2018.

Hiatal hernia. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116557/Hiatal-hernia . Updated August 29, 2018. Accessed March 23, 2018.

Hiatus hernia. Merck Manual Professional Verson website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/gastrointestinal-disorders/esophageal-and-swallowing-disorders/hiatus-hernia. Updated October 2016. Accessed March 23, 2018.

Last reviewed March 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Marcin Chwistek, MD
Last Updated: 1/7/2019

Health References
Health Conditions
Therapeutic Centers

Copyright � 1999-2007
ehc.com; All rights reserved.
Terms & Conditions of Use
Privacy Statement
Medical Center of Independence
17203 E. 23rd St.
Independence,� MO� 64057
Telephone: (816) 478-5000