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Hiatal Hernia Surgery

Hiatal hernia surgery is performed to correct a hiatal hernia by pulling your stomach back into the abdomen and making the opening in the diaphragm smaller. A hiatal hernia is when part of the stomach extends up through the diaphragm and into the chest. This condition can cause severe acid reflux or GERD symptoms. Often, these symptoms can be treated with medications. If those don’t work, your doctor may offer surgery as an option. However, not everyone who has a hiatal hernia needs surgery. Surgery is typically reserved for people with severe cases that haven’t responded well to other treatments.

Hiatal hernia surgery can be performed using the following methods: non-invasive (no incisions required / small puncture / low to moderate sedation) or minimally-invasive (small incisions of 2–3 inches long / general anesthesia). The type of method chosen will vary according to your particular health condition.

How to prepare for the procedure

Prior to the procedure, your doctor and treatment team will explain to you what to expect before, during and after the procedure and potential risks of the procedure. Other recommendations include:

Talk to your doctor about

  • All medications, herbal products and dietary supplements you are currently taking and ask for their recommendations about each.
  • Radiation exposure, especially for those that are pregnant
  • Any allergies to medicines, latex, tape, iodine, and anesthetic agents
  • Any history of bleeding disorders
  • Any body piercings on your chest or abdomen

Other suggestions

  • Eat a normal meal the evening before the procedure. However, do not eat, drink or chew anything after midnight before your procedure. If you must take medications, only take them with sips of water.
  • Leave all jewelry at home
  • Remove all makeup and nail polish
  • Wear comfortable clothing when you come to the hospital.
  • If you normally wear dentures, glasses, or hearing devices at home, plan to wear them during the procedure.

What to expect before the procedure

To determine whether you need this procedure, your doctor might perform a variety of tests, including:

Diagnostic tests and procedures

What to expect during the procedure

Hiatal hernia surgery will typically take between 2 to 3 hours to complete. This procedure is typically performed in the cardiothoracic operating room (OR). Check with your doctor about the details of your procedure. In general, during a minimally-invasive hiatal hernia surgery:

  • You will change into a hospital gown.
  • A nurse will start the intravenous (IV) line in your arm which will administer medications and fluids during the procedure.
  • Usually, your doctor will administer anesthesia (will make you feel sleepy).
  • Once you are sedated, your doctor may insert a breathing tube through your throat into your lungs and connect you to a ventilator. This will breathe for you during surgery.
  • The doctor makes a few tiny incisions in the abdomen.
  • The doctor inserts a laparoscope (thin tube with a light and a camera) to repair the hernia.
  • The doctor may also tighten the stomach opening to prevent the hernia from coming back.
  • The doctor will close up the incision(s) with stitches or staples, and you will be moved to the recovery area.

What to expect after the procedure

After the surgery, you will be taken to the step down unit for 1 to 2 days. Other recommendations include:

General guidelines

  • The breathing tube is removed when you wake up from anesthesia.
  • Ambulation is started on the first or second day of surgery.
  • Urine catheters and drainage tubes (chest tubes) are removed after 24 hours.
  • You can probably do your normal activities after the surgery. But, you may need to take it easy at first. No heavy lifting or vigorous exercises until your body has healed.
  • Receive several different medicines to relieve pain. Patients will be given long-acting oral pain medication, NSAIDS, IV pain medication and multi-level intercostal nerve blocks.
  • Your doctor will give you instructions to follow during your recovery.


Saint Barnabas Medical Center
94 Old Short Hills Road
Livingston, NJ 07039
(973) 322-5000
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Monmouth Medical Center
300 Second Avenue
Long Branch, NJ 07740
(732) 222-5200
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Jersey City Medical Center
355 Grand Street
Jersey City, NJ 07302
(201) 915-2000
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Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital
1 Robert Wood Johnson Place
New Brunswick, NJ 08901
(732) 828-3000
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