What is the pathophysiologic relationship between hiatal hernia and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)?

Updated: May 23, 2019
  • Author: Marco G Patti, MD; Chief Editor: BS Anand, MD  more...
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Answer

When discussing the mechanisms for GERD, the issue of hiatal hernia must be addressed. Hiatal hernias can be encountered frequently in patients with reflux disease; however, it has been well proven that not all patients with hiatal hernias have symptomatic reflux.

Buttar and coworkers state that a hiatal hernia may contribute to reflux via a variety of mechanisms. [17] (See the image below). The lower esophageal sphincter may migrate proximally into the chest and lose its abdominal high-pressure zone (HPZ), or the length of the HPZ may decrease. The diaphragmatic hiatus may be widened by a large hernia, which impairs the ability of the crura to function as an external sphincter. Finally, gastric contents may be trapped in the hernial sac and reflux proximally into the esophagus during relaxation of the LES. Reduction of the hernias and crural closure are critical to restoring an adequate intra-abdominal length of esophagus and recreating the HPZ.

Hiatal hernia. Hiatal hernia.

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