What is it?

Hernia describes the condition where an organ pushes and protrudes through an opening in a muscle or tissue. The diaphragm is a muscle that aid in respiration and separates the chest from the abdomen.
- Hiatal hernia describes the condition when the stomach’s upper part pushes up through the diaphragm into the chest. Hiatal hernia is common in people over 50 years old and affects up to 60% of the population over 60 years old. The exact cause of hiatal hernia is not known, though risk factors include obesity and smoking.
- A diaphragmatic hernia is far less common and occurs when the diaphragm is damaged due to injuries such as in traffic accidents or incidental damage during surgery. This injury results in abdominal organs move to the chest through the defect, causing severe breathing difficulties.

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Additional names

This group contains additional names:
- Hiatal hernia
- Paraesophageal hernia
- Paraesophageal hernia
- Diaphragmatic hernia

Signs & symptoms

Most hiatal hernias don’t cause any symptoms. However, symptoms of hiatal hernia may include:
- Heartburn.
- Chest or upper stomach pain.
- Difficulty swallowing.
Hiatal hernias can lead to complications such as loss of blood supply to the stomach (a condition called strangulation). Strangulation may present with fever, sudden worsening in pain, nausea, or constipation. A strangulated hernia can be life-threatening, and patients should admit immediately to a hospital and receive medical care.
Symptoms of diaphragmatic hernia may include:
- Difficulty breathing (called dyspnea) – due to compression of the lungs.
- Rapid breathing (called tachypnea).
- Blue discoloration of the skin (called cyanosis) – signifies that the body doesn’t receive enough oxygen.


Diagnosis is made by questioning and investigating the medical history and physical examination to provide additional information and exclude other diseases. Further tests include:
- X-ray – possibly with contrast drinking liquid (Barium swallow), to emphasize the stomach.
- Endoscopy – a procedure that allows looking at the stomach and taking a biopsy, using a special camera inserted through the mouth.
- Additional tests may include an ultrasound scan, CT, or MRI.


Hiatal hernias that cause symptoms can be treated with medicine, or in complicated cases, surgery. On the other hand, Diaphragmatic hernia typically requires urgent surgery to repair the damage to the diaphragm.

☝️ This is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Please consult with your physician before making any medical decision.

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