Doctor's Notes on Hiatal Hernia
The esophagus is a tube that connects the throat to the stomach. It passes through the chest and enters the abdomen through a hole in the diaphragm, the breathing muscle beneath the chest that separates the chest and abdomen. The term hiatal hernia describes the condition in which the upper part of the stomach that normally is located just below the diaphragm in the abdomen pushes through the esophageal opening in the diaphragm to rest within the chest cavity. This mean part of the stomach has risen up from its location in the abdomen into the chest. This is a fairly common condition, and in most cases, the cause is not known.
In most cases a hiatal hernia does not cause symptoms. If symptoms do occur, they are due to gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) in which the digestive fluid containing acid from the stomach moves up into the esophagus. Associated symptoms can include heartburn, belcing, nausea, and burping.
Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.