Most people with hiatal hernia don't experience any signs or symptoms and won't need treatment. If you experience signs and symptoms, such as recurrent heartburn and acid reflux, you may require treatment, which can include medications or surgery.
Medications for heartburn
If you experience heartburn and acid reflux, your doctor may recommend medications, such as:
- Antacids that neutralize stomach acid. Over-the-counter antacids, such as Gelusil, Maalox, Mylanta, Rolaids and Tums, may provide quick relief.
- Medications to reduce acid production. Called H-2-receptor blockers, these medications include cimetidine (Tagamet HB), famotidine (Pepcid AC), nizatidine (Axid AR) and ranitidine (Zantac 75). Stronger versions of these medications are available in prescription form.
- Medications that block acid production and heal the esophagus. Proton pump inhibitors block acid production and allow time for damaged esophageal tissue to heal. Over-the-counter proton pump inhibitors include lansoprazole (Prevacid 24HR) and omeprazole (Prilosec OTC). Stronger versions of these medications are available in prescription form.
Surgery to repair a hiatal hernia
In a small number of cases, a hiatal hernia may require surgery. Surgery is generally reserved for emergency situations and for people who aren't helped by medications to relieve heartburn and acid reflux. Hiatal hernia repair surgery is often combined with surgery for gastroesophageal reflux disease.
An operation for a hiatal hernia may involve pulling your stomach down into your abdomen and making the opening in your diaphragm smaller, reconstructing a weak esophageal sphincter, or removing the hernia sac. In some cases, this is done using a single incision in your chest wall (thoracotomy) or abdomen (laparotomy). In other cases, your surgeon may insert a tiny camera and special surgical tools through several small incisions in your abdomen. The operation is then performed while your surgeon views images from inside your body that are displayed on a video monitor (laparoscopic surgery).
Dec. 08, 2011
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- Heartburn or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). The American College of Gastroenterology. http://www.acg.gi.org/patients/women/whatisgerd.asp. Accessed Oct. 17, 2011.
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