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Hiatal Hernia and GERD - Topic Overview

The abdomen and chest are separated by a sheetlike muscle called the diaphragm. The esophagus camera.gif passes through an opening (the hiatus) in the diaphragm to connect to the stomach. A hiatal hernia occurs when part of the stomach bulges out of the abdomen, through the hiatus, and into the chest. When this happens, the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) may move above the diaphragm.

Normally, pressure from the diaphragm muscle helps keep the LES valve closed. When a hiatal hernia occurs, the valve is pushed above the diaphragm so the diaphragm muscle can no longer help keep the valve closed. If the valve cannot prevent stomach acid and juices from backing up into the esophagus, symptoms of heartburn may occur.

A hiatal hernia camera.gif is often associated with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). The most noticeable symptom of GERD is heartburn.

A person may have a hiatal hernia or GERD or both. A person with a hiatal hernia may not always have GERD. And many people with GERD do not have a hiatal hernia.

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: March 06, 2012
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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