Published on 24 Jun 2012 | over 4 years ago

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Your doctor has recommended that you undergo surgery to repair a hiatal hernia. But what does that actually mean?

Your diaphragm is a muscle that separates your chest from your abdomen and helps you to breathe.

Normally, the diaphragm has an opening for the esophagus to pass through where it connects with the stomach.

A hiatal hernia occurs when part of the stomach pushes upward through this small opening.
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Your hiatal hernia may be causing considerable discomfort, with symptoms like heartburn, difficulty swallowing, chest pain and belching. The reasons why hiatal hernias form are not known, but they are quite common.

A hernia is dangerous only if it becomes strangulated. That means that the portion of the stomach that is pushed up into the chest may become pinched - preventing blood from reaching it.
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If this happens, you may require emergency surgery to restore blood flow and to repair the hernia.

Luckily, the vast majority of hernias are not considered to be emergencies. However, if you should ever feel a sudden onset of severe pain in your chest or stomach, you should seek medical attention immediately.

So make sure that you ask your doctor to carefully explain the reasons behind this recommendation.

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In general terms, we can say that a hernia occurs when the layers that make up the abdominal wall weaken. In other words, the fabric of muscle and other tissues which protect the gut, develops a defect, or weakness. Through that defect the peritoneum (PER-IT-TA-NEE-UM) - and perhaps other organs - push their way outward, forming a lump which can be felt - and sometimes seen - protruding from the abdomen.

In men, the inguinal canal contains blood vessels that supply the testes, as well as the vessel that carries sperm to the penis. Hernias that occur due to a weakness in the abdominal wall at the inguinal canal, are called inguinal hernias. And not surprisingly, men are 25 times more likely than women to experience a hernia in this area.

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On the day of your operation, you will be asked to put on a surgical gown.
You may receive a sedative by mouth and an intravenous line may be put in.
You will then be transferred to the operating table.

In the operating room, a nurse will begin preparation by clipping or shaving your groin.

The surgeon will then apply antiseptic solution to the skin over the hernia, place a sterile drape around the operative site and
will inject a local anesthetic. Usually, the surgeon will inject more than one spot - to make sure that the entire area is thoroughly numb.
Or in the case of a spinal, the anesthetic will be injected into the small of your back. After allowing a few minutes for the anesthetic to take effect,
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