A hernia is the protrusion of a portion of the body through the wall
or space that contains it.
Abdominal wall hernias occur when fat or bowel
protrudes through the muscle and fascia of the abdominal wall. As the inside
muscles of the wall or lining of a cavity is weakened and the organs meant to
stay within that cavity slip out. A bulge or small balloon-like sac is created and is sometimes palpable and/or visible.


Male and female patients are both susceptible to getting hernias.
Causes can vary from congenital (born with it), developmental or as
a result of life's activities that wear on muscle tissue as people age.

A hernia will not get better over time nor will it ever go away by itself. The
development of a hernia is correlated to stress on the abdominal wall or
pressure within the abdomen. Contributing factors to hernias include:

  • Obesity
  • Chronic coughing
  • Poor nutrition
  • Straining to have a bowel movement or urinate
  • Weak abdominal muscles due to poor physical shape
  • Improper weight lifting
  • Chronic lung disease
  • Smoking
  • Fluid in the abdominal cavity

The most common and familiar hernias are abdominal, but they do occur in other parts of the body as well.

  • inguinal hernia (groin area) – Most common hernia in men and
  • Femoral hernia (groin) – more common in women
  • Hiatal hernia (in the esophageal area)
  • Paraesophageal hernias (stomach entering the chest cavity)
  • Umbilical hernia (around the belly button)
  • Ventral and incisional hernia (through a scar)

Symptoms vary depending on the type of hernia. Generally symptoms
of hernias result from the discomfort caused by the dimension of the hernia
and its contents. The diagnosis is often easily made on physical examination.
Some hernias may show no symptoms at all. They can occur at any age.
However, hiatal and paraesophageal hernias are diagnosed by X-ray, CT
or upper endoscopy.

  • A physician should be consulted if you are experiencing a bulge
    on your abdominal wall that may or may not cause discomfort.
    Sometimes patients are unable to push this back into place;
    sometimes it mayappear to go away when you lie down.
  • Groin pain
  • Pain and swelling in the scrotum around the testicular area in men
  • Nausea, vomiting and fever due to bowel obstruction
  • Heartburn, reflux or regurgitation

An incarcerated hernia may not be an immediate medical emergency
but has the potential of becoming one and must be addressed with a
With an incarcerated hernia, a piece of the intestine that protrudes
through an abdominal opening in the abdominal wall becomes stuck in that
opening. The blood supply to the intestine may become reduced and the
intestinal tissue begins to die. In this situation the incarcerated hernia
becomes strangulated. Incarcerated hernias cause painful swelling and a
tender bulge under the skin. Other symptoms often include anorexia, nausea,
vomiting and fever. Emergency surgery can be required for an incarcerated
hernia. Your surgeon will place the intestine back into the abdomen and repair
the weakened area in the abdominal wall. Incarcerated hernias can cause
bowel obstruction and must be evaluated by a physician.


A strangulated hernia is a life-threatening emergency and must be urgently dealt with. Strangulated hernias refer to hernias where the blood supply is cut off. Should this occur, any tissue in the hernia, such as part of the intestine, can become ischemic (blood supply cut off) and die quickly. Immediate surgery is essential to save the herniated tissue. Unlike regular hernias, strangulated hernias are irreducible, always painful, tender to the touch and are sometimes accompanied by nausea, vomiting and fever.
There is usually a feeling of malaise. Strangulated hernia can cause small
bowel obstruction.


Hernias are usually diagnosed by a medical examination and prior
medical history.
Ultrasound and computerized tomographic scanning is
also often used to aid in the diagnosis. Urinanalysis may be ordered to
rule out other problems including a urinary tract infection.


Most hernias will become larger over time and will not permanently resolve on their own. However, there is a small risk of a medical emergency occurring if part of the bowel gets trapped within the hernia. Not all hernias have to be repaired, but surgery should be considered if:

  • The hernia is growing larger
  • The hernia is causing discomfort
  • The hernia is limiting activities
  • There is a risk of the bowel getting trapped

Medical treatment can be offered for paraesophageal and hiatal
Treatment options include prescription strength antacids. Many
times patients consult with a gastroenterologist for management of their
symptoms. If these modalities are unsuccessful, surgical treatment is


The only treatment for most hernias is the surgical repair of the defective muscle. Hernia repair is one of the most frequently perform operations. Over 600,000 procedures are performed annually in the United States. It is highly effective and has only a 10% overall recurring rate. Different hernias have variable recurrence rate. Surgical repair is performed either laparoscopically with minimally invasive technique and fiber optic instruments or with the conventional or traditional open technique.


The laparoscopic "minimally invasive" technique is performed under
a general anesthesia and most often done on an outpatient basis.

A harmless gas is utilized to inflate the abdomen. This provides our surgeon
with room to work in the abdomen and an unobstructed view. This can be
uncomfortable to the patient so a general anesthetic is used to prevent

A laparoscope (a telescope-like instrument with a viewing camera) is inserted
through a small incision at the navel. Other long-handled surgical instruments
are inserted into the abdomen through several small incisions. The camera on
the laparoscope transmits images from the abdomen to a high definition
viewing screen in the operating room which guides your surgeon in the
procedure. Your surgeon will gently pull the body part back into its proper
place and position a mesh patch over the weakness in the abdominal wall.
Sutures are then used to reinforce and secure it. The abdomen is then
deflated, the small incisions are closed with sutures or surgical tape and
the procedure is completed.

There are many benefits to performing this procedure

  • The recovery time and complication risks are greatly reduced
  • There is a reduced risk of infection since there is a reduced
    exposure of external organs to possible external contaminants
  • Smaller incisions reduce pain
  • Shorter recovery time
  • Less post-operative scarring
  • Reduced hemorrhaging which reduces the possibility of a need for
    a transfusion

With the open technique our surgeon makes an incision several
long near the hernia.
Once he sees the herniated area, it's gently
pushed back into its proper place. A piece of mesh is implanted
underneath the strong fascial tissue covering and reinforcing the area
of weakness and secured with sutures. This is often performed as an
outpatient procedure and under local anesthesia. There are however
instances where general anesthesia or regional or spinal anesthesia is

Hernia repair is a relatively safe surgical procedure and
complications are rare
. As with any surgery there exists the potential
risks of bleeding, infection, chronic pain, blood clots, injury to the intestine,
testicular area or other nearby structures, as well as potential possible
allergic reaction to the anesthesia.


There are various steps that can be taken to try to avoid the
reoccurrence of a hernia:

  • Gradually strengthen the abdominal muscles with walking, running
    or swimming
  • Avoid heavy lifting
  • Avoid straining fwith bowel movements or urinating
  • Lose excess weight
  • Stop smoking to curb the chronic cough
  • After the procedure the patient will be monitored for 1- 2 hours in the
    recovery room until completely awake
  • The patient will be sent home when awake and able to walk
  • During the first 24 – 48 hours some soreness can be expected
  • The patient will be encouraged to be up and about the day after surgery
  • If the procedure was performed laparoscopically the patient should
    be able to perform normal activities within a short period of time
    (1 – 3 days)
  • A follow-up appointment should be scheduled within 1 week following
    the operation
  • A persistent fever over of 101 degrees or more
  • The incision becomes red, tender, swollen or oozes blood
  • Swelling or severe pain near the surgical site
  • Pain that is not being relieved by medication
  • Constant nausea or vomiting
  • Inability to urinate
  • Chills
  • Persistent cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Inability to eat or drink liquids

An umbilical hernia will create a bulge or soft swelling near the navel (umbilicus). This will occur because intestine, fat, or fluid pushes through a weak spot in the belly where the umbilical cord passes through the abdominal wall (navel) and creates a sac at the belly button. Hernias can occur in the weak area at any time from birth through late adulthood, as the weakness continually bulges and opens and abdominal contents protrude through it. Umbilical hernias present the same risks of incarceration and strangulation
as other hernias.

Umbilical hernias are common in infants. Premature babies and those
with low birth weights are more prone to hernias. The bulge may only be noticed when the baby cries, coughs or strains. When the baby is calm or lying on his or her back, the bulge may disappear. Most often they will shrink and close on their own by the time the child is 3 or 4 years old. Generally umbilical hernias are painless in children.

In adults umbilical hernias are generally acquired because of too
abdominal pressure.
They have a tendency to get larger over time.
They are a generally result of health problems that create the excessive
pressure in the belly. Factors contributing to this are excess weight,
pregnancy, too much fluid in the belly (ascites), chronic cough,
constipation, or an oversized prostrate gland.

Umbilical hernia repair is generally treated with outpatient
While having few risks, it is far more risky to avoid treatment.
Left untreated, there is a risk of strangulation, which means that blood
supply to the tissue is cut off because part of the intestine or fat is
trapped. Then any tissue in the hernia, such as part of the intestine,
can become ischemic (blood supply cut off) and die quickly. Immediate
surgery is essential to save the herniated tissue

This is usually an outpatient procedure and the patient usually goes home
the same day as the surgery when it is not due to strangulation. The
following steps are part of the surgical procedure to repair the umbilical

  • General anesthesia is used to put the patient to sleep
  • The tissue that bulges into the hernia sac is pushed back into
    the belly
  • The muscles and tissues around the navel are then repaired. A
    piece of mesh may be used to place over or under the weak spot
    to help strengthen and support the compromised area.
  • Stitches are used to close the incision
  • Recovery room, and then home

A ventral hernia is a protrusion of an organ inside the abdomen such
as the intestine or the bowel.
The protruded organ comes out through the
cavity, pushes the muscle layer of the abdominal wall and is visible from the
outside as a bulge in the abdomen. It can cause much discomfort and is a
curable condition. Surgery is usually the main treatment for the majority of
ventral hernias, because they will most likely worsen if not treated.

A ventral hernia usually arises in the abdominal wall where a previous surgical
incision was made (ventral incisional hernia). It occurs in the area around the
previous incision where the abdominal muscles have weakened and a bulge or
a tear occurs.

Ventral hernias are more common as a person ages. Persistent coughing,
difficulty with bowel movements and urination or frequent need for straining
will increase the likelihood of a ventral hernia forming.

In addition to the bulge in the abdomen other signs and symptoms
of a ventral hernia includes:

  • Swelling of the abdomen
  • Nausea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Extremely bad back pain
  • Difficulty standing up straight
  • Constipation
  • Urinating little or not at all

There are many causes of ventral hernias. The most common are:

  • Weakening of the abdominal cavity walls
  • A surgical wound infected after an operation
  • Blood clot formation where a surgical incision took place
  • Malnourishment (a lack of blood supply to the area)
  • Opening of a newly stitched area
  • Obesity (increased body fat can make an operated area difficult to
    heal and a rupture can happen in the smooth muscle tissue)
  • Increased age (older patients often have difficulty healing after
    stitches and unhealed surgical wounds can lead to a hernia)
  • Heavy lifting
  • Continuous coughing
  • Straining for a bowel movement or urinating
  • Severe vomiting
  • Pregnancy (stretching of the abdomen)
  • Diabetes
  • Steroid use

Most often ventral hernias are painless, even when the bulge is touched. However, pain may occur when a person:

  • Lifts heavy objects
  • Coughs
  • Strains during a bowel movement or when urinating
  • Stands or sits for an extended period of time.

Should the hernia become incarcerated, then a great deal of pain
occur and immediate medical attention and treatment is required.

The incarceration occurs when the protrusion does not enter back into the
original cavity it came from. Necrosis (death of body tissue) may then
occur in very severe cases. The blood supply to the protruded part of the
organ gets cut off and the organ tissues die due to the lack of nutrition.
This can lead to a strangulated hernia and severe pain. If the ventral
hernia becomes incarcerated then the patient can suffer from

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Inability to have a bowel movement
  • Tenderness in the affected area
  • Increased heart rate
  • Further enlargement of the size of the bulge
  • Coughing

A ventral hernia is considered a serious condition and should be treated without delay in order to prevent life-threatening symptoms and strangulation. It can be repaired with surgery that is performed either laparoscopically or the open traditional way.

The possibility may exist for your surgeon to push the ventral
hernia back into the abdomen without performing surgery.

Should surgery be required and performed laparoscopically, 5 -6 several
small incisions will be made in the abdomen. A scope and tools are
inserted through these incisions to repair the hernia. If the surgery is
performed with an open procedure, then the abdominal wall is surgically
opened to repair the hernia.

When located, the tissue surrounding the hernia is exposed. Extra fat or tissue will be removed. The muscles and abdomen wall are then closed.

The mesh that is used is made of a man-made or natural material may
help support the wall of the abdomen. This may be placed in front of,
on, or inside the lining of the abdomen. In some cases the incision from
a large hernia may be covered with a skin flap. A skin flap is muscle or
tissue that is taken from a nearby area of the body (chest). (If a stoma
exists where the hernia occurs, it may have to be closed, and a new one
created. A drain may be inserted to remove extra fluid. Additional
information regarding the laparoscopic procedure and open procedure is
available near the top of this page)

After the surgical repair the condition can be further treated at
home by:

  • Rest will be required as prescribed by the physician
  • Including high fiber foods into the diet
  • Drinking more fluids
  • No smoking
  • Regular exercise
  • No heavy lifting

An inguinal hernia is a protrusion of abdominal cavity contents
through a weak area at the inguinal ring.
The opening to the inguinal
canal is located in the groin. Soft tissue which is usually part of the intestine,
also called the small bowel, protrudes through a weak point or tear in the
muscles of the lower abdominal wall. An inguinal hernia can appear as a
bulge on one or both sides of the groin and can be painful when coughing,
bending or lifting a heavy object.

Most inguinal hernias are a result of the muscle wall not closing as it should
before birth, leaving a weak area in the belly muscle. Pressure on that area
can cause tissue to push through and bulge out. The bulge may appear over
a period of time extending from weeks to months. It can also appear suddenly
after heavy weight lifting, coughing, straining, bending or even laughing. The
hernia can be painful, but some often cause the bulge without pain.

Inguinal hernias can occur from infancy through adulthood. Men, because
of their anatomical structure, are much more susceptible to developing an
inguinal hernia.

An inguinal hernia will not get better on it's own, and at some time, could
possibly lead to life-threatening complications. Surgical repair is generally
recommended for an inguinal hernia that is painful or continues to increase
in size.

The repair of an inguinal hernia is one of the most frequently performed
surgical procedures. Most hernia patients will have surgery to repair the
hernia even if they don't have symptoms because most doctors believe it
is in the best interest of the patient to have the surgery. This will also avoid
the potentially dangerous possibility of strangulation, where the intestine
gets trapped inside the hernia. If the hernia is small, painless and easily
pushed back into the belly, then surgery may not be necessary.

The symptoms of inguinal hernias include:

  • A bulge in one or both sides of the groin that can disappear
    when lying down
  • A swollen or enlarged scrotum in males
  • Sharp pain or discomfort when exercising, lifting or straining
    that will improve after resting
  • Pressure or weakness in the groin
  • Aching feeling, burning or gurgling at the groin

Indirect inguinal hernias are congenital (present since birth) and
are more common in males because of the way a male develops in
the womb. A weakness in the tissue in the inguinal canal is the
cause of this type of hernia.

The inguinal canal extends from the abdomen to the groin. During fetal
development in the male, the testicles, spermatic cords and blood vessels
descend through the canal into the scrotum. In females the inguinal canal
is the channel for ligaments that keep the uterus in place. The entrance to
the canal at the inguinal ring does not always close after birth and a
weakness can be left in the abdominal wall. Fat or part of the small
intestine can slide through this weakness into the inguinal canal and cause
the hernia. The inguinal channel usually closes up before birth but a defect
in the closure is indicative of a weakness that can result in a hernia.

Indirect inguinal hernias can occur at any age but as one ages and the
tissue becomes weaker the chance of it happening increases. They occur
more often in men than women and are more common than direct
hernias. Premature infants have a greater susceptibility to having an
indirect inguinal hernia because there is less time for the inguinal canal to

Direct inguinal hernias can form as connective tissue of the
abdominal muscles degenerate during the adult years and cause
weakening of the muscles.
Fat or the small intestine will slide through
the weak muscle into the groin. Direct inguinal hernias will develop over
time as continuous stress is placed on the weakened muscle. They can
only occur in the male. Several factors can create pressure on the
weakened abdominal muscles and make the condition worse:

  • Muscle strains or sudden twists and pulls
  • Weight gain
  • Lifting heavy objects
  • Straining because of constipation
  • Chronic coughing

Indirect and direct inguinal hernias generally slide back and forth through the inguinal canal. With gentle massage they can usually be moved back into the abdomen.

An incarcerated inguinal hernia is a hernia that gets stuck in the
groin and is unable to be massaged back into the abdomen.

Swelling causes the hernia to be incarcerated. This can also lead to a
strangulated hernia wherein the blood supply going to the incarcerated
small intestine is jeopardized. Strangulated hernias are serious and do
require immediate medical attention.

If the strangulated hernia is not treated severe infection, nausea and
vomiting can occur. The condition can then become life threatening if
surgery is not immediately performed. The affected intestine could die
and then that potion of the intestine would need to be removed.

The symptoms of a strangulated hernia include:

  • Sudden pain that will get more severe within a short time
  • Extreme tenderness and redness in the bulge area
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Fever

The inguinal hernia is diagnosed through a physical examination. The doctor
will feel the hernia as it moves into the groin or scrotum. He may be able to
gently massage it back into its proper place in the abdomen.

When inguinal hernias become enlarged, cause symptoms or become
incarcerated in adults, they require surgical treatment. In infants and
children, inguinal hernias are usually operated on to prevent the hernia from
incarcerating. The surgery can be performed laparoscopically or the open
traditional way.

If the hernia is small, a wait and see approach may be taken.
If the hernia is large and painful, surgery is usually necessary
to repair the hernia and prevent serious complications and
relieve discomfort. There are two types of surgical procedures
for hernia repair.

Five to six small incisions are made in the abdomen and
a fiber-optic tube with a tiny camera is inserted into the
abdomen through one of the incisions.
Small instruments
and a surgical mesh are inserted into the abdomen through
the other incisions. A video camera is used as a guide for your
surgeon to perform the procedure. The synthetic mesh is used
to repair the hernia by attaching it to the strong tissue in the
abdominal wall. Special surgical tacks, and in some instances
sutures, are used to hold it in place. (Three to four ¼ inch to
½ incisions are required for the process). The laparoscopic
procedure is discussed in further detail as well as the
advantages of laparoscopic hernia repair near the top of this

This is commonly known as the"open" method of hernia
An incision is made in the groin and the protruding
intestine is pushed back into the abdomen. The weakened or
torn muscle is then repaired by being sewn together. A
synthetic mesh is often used to support or reinforce the
weakened area (hernioplasty), Additional information on this
procedure is available near the top of this page.


A hiatal hernia is a different type of hernia that presents in a different
way. It occurs in the chest area and will affect the digestive system.
It is an anatomical abnormality where part of the stomach protrudes
through the diaphragm and up into the chest.
In most cases, a hiatal
hernia will not cause any symptoms. If pain or discomfort is experienced, it
can be due to the reflux of gastric acid, air or bile. Other symptoms, though
not present in all cases, include shortness of breath (the hernia's effect on the
diaphragm), dull chest pains, and heart palpitations (irritation of the vagus

hiatal hernia

The esophagus or food tube normally passes down through the chest, crosses
the diaphragm and enters the abdomen through a hole in the diaphragm
called the esophageal hiatus. The esophagus then joins the stomach just
below the diaphragm. When an individual has a hiatal hernia, the esophageal
hiatus opening (hiatal opening) is larger than normal, and a portion of the
upper stomach slips up or passes (herniates) through the hiatus and into the

Other factors possibly contributing to hiatal hernia occurrence include:

  • A permanent shortening of the esophagus which pulls the stomach up.
    This may be caused by inflammation and scarring from reflux or
  • An abnormally loose attachment of the esophagus to the diaphragm
    which allows the esophagus and stomach to slip forward
  • Injury to the area
  • An inherited weakness in the surrounding muscles
  • Surrounding muscles subjected to intense and persistent pressure
    induced by coughing, vomiting, lifting heavy objects and straining
    during a bowel movement

Most hiatal hernias in adults have developed over the years and are usually
found in people who are 50 or over, obese and smokers. By age 60, up to
60% of people will have a hiatal hernia to some degree. However they are
occasionally seen in infants where they have most probably been present
since birth.


  • When the symptoms are new, severe or persistent
  • When it is unclear as to what is causing the symptoms
  • Chest pressure or pain
  • Vomiting blood
  • Dark stools
  • Palpitations or faint feelings
  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Inability to swallow solids foods or liquids easily

Hiatal hernias are divided into two categories; sliding or

Sliding hiatal hernias are the most common forms of hernias.
Most are not associated with any symptoms.
As the hiatal hernia
increases in size the likelihood of symptoms will occur. These symptoms
are almost always the symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease

The junction of the esophagus and stomach (gastro-esophageal junction)
and part of the stomach protrudes into the chest. This junction may
remain permanent in the chest, but most often, it will jut into the chest
only during a swallow. The herniated part of the stomach will fall back
into the abdomen once the swallow is completed.

The hiatal hernia often interferes with the barrier (lower
esophageal sphincter) which prevents acid from refluxing
from the stomach into the esophagus.
Patients suffering from
GERD more often will have hiatal hernias than those not suffering
from GERD.

The symptoms associated with GERD and the resulting hiatal
hernia are:

  • Heartburn
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Belching

When hernia symptoms are severe and chronic acid reflux is involved,
surgery may be recommended. Chronic reflux can cause severe
damage to the esophagus and even lead to esophageal cancer.

The esophagus normally has a neutral pH, which means that it is
neither acidic nor alkaline. The stomach produces acid for the
digestion of food. A muscular valve separates the esophagus and
stomach. This valve is commonly referred to as the antireflux valve,
or gastroesophageal valve (GEV).

When operating properly this valve between the esophagus and
stomach opens to allow food to pass after swallowing. GERD
(gastroesophageal reflux disease)is caused by acid that escapes
from the stomach through this one-way valve located at the top of
the stomach and may travel all of the way back into the throat. The
stomach acid passes into the esophagus, producing symptoms of
heartburn and acid regurgitation. Damage to the lining of the
esophagus may occur, as well as damage to the lungs, if the acid
is inhaled.

Two changes that promote acid reflux will occur when a hiatal hernia
is present:

  • The pressure at the gastro-esophageal junction decreases.
    The sphincter will slide up into the chest and the diaphragm
    will remain in its normal location. The pressure that is
    normally generated when the diaphragm overlaps the
    sphincter and the pressure generated by the sphincter
    no longer overlap.
  • The gastro-esophageal junction and the stomach are pulled
    up into the chest with each swallow. The sharp angle where
    the esophagus and the stomach join becomes less sharp and
    the valve like effect is lost. This too, will promote acid reflux.

An endoscopy, upper GI series or high resolution
manometry are the procedures used to determine the
presence of a hiatal hernia.
If present, it will appear as a sac
between the esophagus and the stomach. This sac is delineated
by the lower esophageal sphincter above and the diaphragm
below. It can sometimes be problematic because the hernia may
only be visible during swallowing.

The treatment for patients suffering from a hiatal hernia
is usually the same as for those suffering from GERD.

Sliding hiatal hernias rarely cause problems on their own other
than contributing to acid reflux if they are not treated. If GERD
becomes severe and is unresponsive to medication surgery
will often be performed.

During surgery, the hiatal hernia is removed in a procedure
similar to the one used for the repair of paraesophageal hernias
(see paraesophageal hernia treatment below). An added feature
to this surgery is wrapping part of the upper stomach around
the lower sphincter to augment the pressure at the sphincter
and prevent further acid reflux.

This is a hiatal hernia defect or wide opening in the diaphragm.
This opening can be repaired with stitches or mesh.

This is a mesh repair of the diaphragm. Typically mesh is used
for large hiatal or paresophageal hernia repairs where tension
in the tissues is present.


• Increased abdominal pressure caused by:

  • Heavy lifting or bending
  • Heavy frequent coughing
  • Pregnancy
  • Obesity
  • Violent vomiting
  • Straining during bowel movement
  • Smoking
  • Use of drugs
  • Stress
  • Diaphragm weakness
  • Heredity
  • Congenital defects

A paraesophageal hernia is a protrusion of the stomach through the
diaphragm into the chest cavity.
This surgery is performed to correct the
defect in the diaphragm that allows it to occur. When the stomach herniates
(bulges) upward into the chest it may move around or even twist on itself.
Paraesophageal hernias occur when the stomach moves up along the side
of the swallowing tube or esophagus. They are generally larger than sliding
hiatal hernias, which are a direct upward protrusion into the chest.

Normally, the esophagus (food pipe) goes through a hiatus (small opening) in
the diaphragm. The diaphragm is a muscular wall that separates the chest and
abdomen (stomach). With PHR, the hiatus in the diaphragm is too large or the
muscles around the hiatus are too weak. A sac can squeeze through this large
opening and position itself next to the esophagus. This herniated sac may
contain a portion of the stomach. When this herniated sac gets trapped in the
chest, it causes stomach acid to back up into the esophagus and damage the
esophagus. The hernia may range from less than an inch of the stomach to
one that includes all of the stomach and sometimes, other organs as well. The
opening of the diaphragm may be very small or up to 4-5 inches in diameter.
Patients with paraesophageal hernias will most likely suffer from heartburn,
reflux, regurgitation or many of the other symptoms associated with GERD.
In the most serious situations, the stomach may develop ulcers, bleeding or
twisting that could result in decreased blood flow and perforation of the

A paraesophageal hernia can strangulate a portion of the stomach above the diaphragm resulting in esophageal or GI tract obstruction. The tissue can even become ischemic (a decrease in the blood supply to the organ) and necroses (tissue death). A very large herniation can cause the inflation of the lung to restrict, resulting in pain and breathing problems.

If left untreated and the hernia is associated with GERD, complications can include bleeding, perforation of the esophagus, and a greatly increased risk of esophageal cancer

A paraesophageal hernia is commonly repaired with the laparoscopic technique. During the surgery, the stomach is replaced back down into the abdomen. The opening in the diaphragm is made smaller and stitches or mesh material will be used to close or decrease the size. Closure of the diaphragm may include the use of mesh. The procedure is combined with either a partial Toupet or a complete (Nissen) fundoplication.


  • Resolution of life threatening problems such as bleeding,
    perforation and pneumonia
  • Resolution of heartburn and reflux
  • Ability to stop antacid medications in 90% of patients


  • Recurrent hernia
  • Vagotomy (the surgical cutting of the vagus nerve to
    reduce acid secretion in the stomach)
  • Recurrence of reflux
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Gas bloating
  • Problems may happen during the laparoscopic procedure
    that would necessitate converting the procedure to a
    laparotomy (open procedure).
  • Blood clot
  • Injury to nearby structures
  • Bleeding and pneumothorax (collapsed lung)







Dr. Craig Floch

the founder and senior partner of Fairfield County Bariatrics & Surgical Specialists, P.C. His commitment has enabled us to become one of the most prominent, dedicated, personal and highly respected practices serving Connecticut, New England and New York.

Learn More

Dr. Neil Floch

the Director of Minimally Invasive Surgery at Norwalk Hospital as well as the Bariatric Director of the Hospital. He is the first fellowship trained advanced Laparoscopic Surgeon in Fairfield County.

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Dr. Peter Ingraldi

is a partner of Fairfield County Bariatrics & Surgical Specialists, P.C. He joined our practice in 2007. Dr. Ingraldi specializes in general surgery and surgical critical care and is Board Certififed in both fields.

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Abe Fridman

joined our practice September 1, 2012. Dr. Fridman specializes in general and bariatric surgery.

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Dr. Marko Lujic

is the newest member of Fairfield County Bariatrics & Surgical Specialists, P.C., having joined our practice in October 2017. Dr. Lujic will lead our initiative in Milford and will provide comprehensive general surgical services, including breast surgery, thyroid surgery and melanoma in addition to managing traditional general surgery consultations.

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