What is a hiatus hernia?
A hiatus hernia occurs when the opening (hiatus) for the oesophagus (food pipe) in the diaphragm muscle between the abdomen and the chest is too large. When this happens some of the stomach can move up into the chest cavity and cause reflux and heartburn.
Why do I need a hiatus hernia repair?
You may need a hiatus hernia repair if you have a hiatus hernia and are experiencing:
- Severe heartburn
- Inflammation of the oesophagus
- Chronic inflammation of the lungs from breathing in gastric fluids
- Chronic cough from acid irritation of the throat
What are the surgical treatments for a hiatus hernia?
Hiatus hernias are usually repaired with laparoscopic (keyhole) surgery. In some instances, your surgeon may prefer to perform the procedure as open surgery. Both procedures are done under general anaesthetic which means you will be asleep and won’t feel a thing.
Laparoscopic hiatus hernia repair. Laparoscopic hernia repair is a minimally invasive surgical procedure that uses a thin tube with a camera and a light (laparoscope). Your surgeon will make a few small incisions and insert the laparoscope through one of these incisions. Surgical instruments will be inserted through one of the other incisions, and your hernia will be repaired.
During the procedure, your stomach and lower oesophagus will be placed back into their normal positions, and the hiatus is tightened. The stomach is then stitched into position to prevent reflux.
Open surgery. Open surgery is more invasive than a laparoscopic repair and you may have a slightly longer recovery time. During open surgery, your surgeon will make one large incision into the abdomen. They will then pull the stomach back into place and manually wrap it around the lower portion of the oesophagus to create a tighter sphincter.
Risks and potential complications from hiatus hernia surgery
Hiatus hernia surgery is normally very safe, however, there are a number of possible risks and complications. These include:
- Adverse reaction to anaesthetic medication
- Nerve injury (vagus nerves that run along the oesophagus)
- Difficulty swallowing
- Recurrence of hernia
Cost of hiatus hernia surgery
Hiatus hernia surgery is performed in both public and private hospitals. If you use a private hospital, a portion of your costs may be covered by your private health insurance. Please contact the Sydney GI Surgery team to discuss your needs and for an accurate assessment of the cost involved.
Recovery from hiatus hernia repair surgery
You may need to spend 1-2 days in hospital after your surgery. Most people are able to return to work and normal activities within 2 -4 weeks, however, you should talk to your doctor if your work involves strenuous activity.