Medical Dictionary: Hiatus hernia


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Hiatus hernia: Another name for Hiatal hernia.
Hiatus hernia (condition): Hernia of the stomach through the diaphragm muscle.

Hiatus hernia: When an organ pokes out past the muscle wall that is supposed to hold the organ in place, you have a hernia. A hiatal hernia occurs when the upper part of the stomach pushes through an opening in the diaphragm, the muscle that separates the abdomen from the chest. This opening is called the esophageal hiatus.

After you swallow food, it travels between your mouth and stomach through a muscular tube called the esophagus. The esophagus passes through the hiatus to enter the abdominal cavity. At the bottom of the esophagus is a muscle called the lower esophageal sphincter, which acts as a valve. The hiatus itself acts like a second valve. Normally the hiatus and the lower esophageal sphincter line up with each other to keep stomach contents from backing up into the esophagus (a condition called reflux). But the hiatus can stretch because of muscle weakness or too much abdominal pressure. When this occurs, the stomach can slip through the hiatus, causing a hiatal hernia. 1

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Footnotes:
1. excerpt from Hiatal Hernia: NIDDK

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