Symptoms and Signs of Can a Hiatal Hernia Feel Like a Heart Attack?

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Medically Reviewed on 6/1/2022

Doctor's Notes on Can a Hiatal Hernia Feel Like a Heart Attack?

A heart attack occurs when one or more blood vessels in the heart are partially or completely blocked. A hiatal hernia is a gastrointestinal tract condition where part of the stomach pushes up through the diaphragm into the chest cavity. Signs and symptoms similar to both conditions may be chest pain that can radiate to the arm, back, and neck. Differences in signs and symptoms between the two conditions may help determine which problem is occurring in the patient; for example, hiatal hernia symptoms and signs that are different from a heart attack include

Signs and symptoms of a heart attack that are different from hiatal hernias include shortness of breath, profuse sweating, and nausea; some people may experience pain in the shoulders and/or arms. Women with heart attacks may also experience signs and symptoms such as extreme weakness and/or fatigue.

If you are unsure if you are having a hiatal hernia problem versus a heart attack, call 911 as a heart attack is a medical emergency while a hiatal hernia is not.

The cause of heart attacks is partial or complete blockage of one or more blood vessels in the heart (usually by a blood clot) that results inadequate blood and/or oxygen delivery to the heart muscle that becomes damaged and then may die. There are suspected causes for hiatal hernias; obesity, frequent coughing, straining with constipation, poor posture, bending and/or heavy lifting, hereditary, smoking, and/or congenital defects.

What Are the Treatments for Heart Attacks vs. Hiatal Hernias?

The goal in treatment of heart attacks is to restore blood flow to the heart while hiatal hernia treatment goal is to reduce acid production and to halt reflux into the esophagus so it can heal. Medications and surgery procedures are different:

  • Medications for hiatal hernia
    • Antacids
    • H2-receptor blockers
    • Protein pump inhibitors
  • Medications for heart attacks

Surgery differs, too; for example, heart attacks may be treated by the following:

  • Angioplasty and stenting
  • Coronary artery bypass surgery

In contrast to heart attacks, hiatal hernia surgery may include the following:

  • Pulling the stomach down into the abdomen
  • Esophageal sphincter reconstruction
  • Sleeve gastrectomy

Your doctors can help you to determine which treatment plan is best for you.

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.