Strangulated Hiatal Hernia Dangers and Complications

Strangulated Hiatal Hernia

The single most important thing to understand about a strangulated hiatal hernia before doing any further research is that they are a serious medical danger, and are considered an emergency that can result in a fatality. What is absolutely bizarre about this fact is that the vast majority of hiatal hernias are nearly harmless and many produce no symptoms. Therefore this condition is somewhat unique in that it can be both a life threatening condition and nothing more than a benign annoyance. Understanding the difference, however, starts with understanding just what is a hiatal hernia and what is it about some types or complications that can lead to such serious ends.

Most hiatal hernias do not start out strangulated. In fact, there are two main hiatal hernia types, although most people have the less serious of the two. A small, sliding hernia, for instance, simply means that the area of the stomach where the esophagus attaches has slipped through or been pushed through the hiatus, an opening in the diaphragm. Conversely, a more serious type of hernia does exist, and it is referred to as a paraesophageal or, rolling hernia. When these occur, they refer to the stomach being pushed alongside the esophagus as opposed to merely sitting beneath it. This secondary type is much more likely to result in a strangulated hiatal hernia, which means that the blood supply to the stomach has been entirely cut off.

Interestingly enough, symptoms alone are not often enough to alert a sufferer as to what specifically is going on with their hiatal hernia. One of the most common complaints of sufferers is hiatal hernia chest pain. This is almost always caused by stomach acid, as opposed to the hernia itself. The hernia itself produces no pain in most cases, although the orientation of the sphincter that keeps stomach acid from traveling up the esophagus may be compromised, which could in turn lead to painful acid reflux symptoms. There are other things that might occur alongside hiatal hernia pain symptoms in people with the condition, including vomiting, coughing, burping and feelings of acid indigestion. While hiatal hernias have been called “the great mimic” for their uncanny ability to simulate the sensations of a heart attack, the symptoms are not uncommon and not necessarily indicative of a strangulated hiatal hernia.

There are serious risks associated with any hernia that has become strangled. The term “strangled” itself may seem over the top, however it is entirely fitting. A strangulated hiatal hernia is one that has lost its supply of blood, meaning that the affected area can essentially die. Not only is this in itself a serious medical emergency in itself, but dead tissue can release toxins that can lead to a secondary complication which is blood poisoning. Treatment is possible, however it is not only very different from treatment for a conventional hiatal hernia, when the treatment occurs is just as important as how it is handled.

Standard hiatal hernia treatment typically involves the use of stomach acid reducing medications, lifestyle and dietary changes and some people choose natural options like herbs and acupuncture as well. None of these things are effective in the slightest for a hernia that has become strangulated, and the only solution is surgery for hiatal hernia. However, there is a large difference in terms of success depending on when that surgery occurs. If it occurs in order to repair the condition before it turns into a strangulated hiatal hernia, the odds of success and a full recovery are much more possible. Less than five percent of typical hiatal hernias require surgery, whereas all hiatal hernias that have become strangulated (also called incarcerated) will require this form of treatment.

Although the symptoms of a strangulated hiatal hernia may be similar to those that occur after meals or following exercise in sufferers of a small, sliding hernia, there are some signs to look for that might indicate that a more severe situation is at hand and that standard hiatal hernia treatment is not appropriate. Chest pain is the most common, although it is likely to be much more severe in cases where a hernia has become incarcerated. Additionally, some people experience difficulty swallowing as well. These symptoms should prompt immediate medical attention.

All hiatal hernias are best managed by a medical professional regardless of severity in order to determine the best treatment or form of treatment. For persons with large or esophageal hernias, this is even more important because complications are easier to foresee and conditions can be more easily monitored. A strangulated hiatal hernia is a very serious medical condition, and unfortunately it is very much related to a far less serious physiological commonality. However, the best person to determine the individual needs of a sufferer is a physician who can provide both short and long term care and advice.


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