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Conditions We Treat: Hiatal Hernia

A hiatal hernia occurs when the upper part of the stomach pushes up into the chest through a small opening in the diaphragm, the muscle that separates the abdomen from the chest. If the stomach rises up adjacent to the esophagus, this is referred to as a paraesophageal hernia. In severe cases, the stomach or abdominal organs may rotate or twist, causing severe pain and possibly blockage. This is a medical emergency and will likely require immediate surgery.

Hiatal Hernia: What You Need to Know

Hiatal hernia
  • Hiatal hernias are becoming far more common in an aging and overweight population. Some estimates put prevalence at 50 percent of people over the age of 60.
  • Hiatal hernias are the most common type of hernias caused by pregnancy and occur in 15 to 20 percent of pregnant women. The symptoms usually present in the second trimester.
  • Despite their prevalence, less than 10 percent of people with hiatal hernias experience any symptoms, or their symptoms, such as heartburn, are mild. Generally, the symptoms of hiatal hernias can be controlled with lifestyle changes and medication such as eating meals three to four hours before lying down and using over-the-counter antacids.
  • Any instance in which the stomach or abdominal organs rotate or twist, causing severe pain, blockage and possible strangulation in which blood supply is lost, is always treated with emergency surgery.

Patient Resources

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Why choose Johns Hopkins for hiatal hernias?

Our Physicians


Rely on the expertise of our surgeons to diagnose and repair hiatal hernias.

Our Patient Education

Kimberley Steele, Michael Schweitzer, Thomas Magnuson and Hien Nguyen

Dr. Hien Nguyen, director of the Johns Hopkins Comprehensive Hernia Center, answers some of the most frequently asked questions about common hernias.

Common Hernia Diagnosis and Treatment

Women and Hernias

Minimally Invasive Hernia Surgery