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Paraesophageal Hernias

A paraesophageal hernia occurs when a part of the stomach slips through a hole in the diaphragm and into the esophagus. We provide relief and treat paraesophageal hernias with minimally invasive surgical approaches.

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Better health + paraesophageal hernia care starts here

We go the extra mile when treating hernias, especially the less common types, like paraesophageal hernias. Being diagnosed with a paraesophageal hernia might sound complicated, but your care doesn’t have to be.

We’ll work with you to create a custom care plan that maximizes your comfort and minimizes your recovery time. Typically, treatment involves a minimally invasive surgery, and most people are able to return to their normal activity within a week. 

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The esophagus connects the throat to the stomach. On the way, it passes through an opening in the diaphragm, which is a wall of muscle that separates the chest from the abdomen. This opening is known as the esophageal hiatus. It’s possible for a part of the stomach to herniate (or bulge) into the diaphragm, creating a condition called a hiatal hernia.

Hiatal hernias typically develop later in life after prolonged stretching of the esophageal hiatus. This stretching can be linked to increased pressure in the abdomen caused by pregnancy, obesity or coughing.

A paraesophageal hernia is a more uncommon type of hiatal hernia where a large part of the stomach slips through the esophageal hiatus and into the esophagus. The stomach then presses against the lungs and heart.

Paraesophageal hernia symptoms

If you have a paraesophageal hernia, you may experience one or a combination of the following symptoms:

  • A vague feeling of abdominal pain
  • Feeling like you’ve eaten too much 
  • Shortness of breath 
  • Symptoms that could be mistaken for heart attack symptoms

It's a good idea to talk with your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms. On the other hand, you might not notice any symptoms at all. That’s because the hernia is internal, so you won’t feel it or see a bulge.

If you've been diagnosed with a paraesophageal hernia, we’ll perform a series of tests to understand the extent of your condition.



During your first appointment, we’ll evaluate the extent of your hernia and whether it poses a serious threat to your health. We’ll turn to the following tests to understand how your paraesophageal hernia is impacting your health:

  • Barium swallow: This involves drinking a barium solution followed by a series of X-rays of your upper digestive system. The barium solution illuminates your digestive system like a highlighter, producing clearer pictures on the X-rays. 
  • Endoscopy: A thin tube with a tiny camera and light attached at the end is passed down your throat to examine your esophagus and stomach


Once we know the extent of your paraesophageal hernia, we'll walk you through what to expect during surgery. In some rare cases, emergency surgery may be needed if the stomach becomes stuck and twisted inside the hernia.

Our surgeons take a minimally invasive, laparoscopic approach to surgery, even in the face of emergencies. This means we opt to make a few, small incisions rather than a large, open incision. This approach reduces your recovery time and overall risk of complications.   

During the procedure, the surgeon pulls the stomach back into its normal position, then closes the defect that allowed the hernia to develop in the first place. This will prevent a recurring hernia. 

In most cases, you’ll be able to walk around the day after your surgery and resume normal activity within a week. You’ll have some dietary restrictions right after surgery, and should be able to resume your regular meals within 2–3 weeks after the procedure.

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