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The Importance of Getting Your Hiatal Hernia Repaired Correctly the First Time

Believe it or not, many people with hernias requiring surgery only have a 50/50 chance of finding pain relief. The problem? Not getting proper treatment during their first procedure.

Here at Wyoming Medical Associates, Dr. Jacob Rinker is a highly skilled surgeon specializing in general and vascular surgery. He’s also the trauma director and a general surgeon at Campbell County Memorial Hospital in Gillette, Wyoming. 

Dr. Rinker offers these insights into hiatal hernias and the repair process.

The problem with hiatal hernias

A hernia is a hole in your internal tissue, typically in your abdomen or groin, that allows other tissues or organs to poke out. 

When you have a hiatal hernia, the opening occurs in your diaphragm, the large muscle separating your chest organs from your abdominal organs. The hole is where your esophagus connects to your stomach, allowing the bottom of your esophagus and top of your stomach, which are normally below the diaphragm, to push through into your chest.

Hiatal hernias typically cause uncomfortable symptoms, like acid reflux and heartburn. As they grow larger, more of your stomach protrudes through the hole into your chest. This more serious hiatal hernia is called a paraesophageal hernia. It can cause significant chest pain and even weight loss or bleeding.

Anyone can develop a hernia, but most hiatal hernias occur in adults in their 70s and 80s. Most respond positively to medication, but sometimes the best solution is hernia surgery.

Why your first hernia repair matters

No one wants to have surgery, especially more than one time for the same condition. On top of that, hernia repairs grow increasingly complicated the more times you need them. 

Working with an inexperienced surgeon can lead to additional symptoms, such as:

Instead, you should find an expert like Dr. Rinker who specializes in laparoscopic techniques. This minimally invasive approach allows him to repair your hernia by making 3-5 small incisions in the area. He uses these to insert a small camera and specialized instruments while using laparoscope images as guidance. 

During your hernia repair, Dr. Rinker moves your stomach back into place inside your abdominal cavity and repairs the hole in the diaphragm. Then, if you have trouble with acid reflux along with your hernia, he uses a portion of your upper stomach to create a tighter sphincter around the lower end of your esophagus. 

Not only does this approach cause minimal damage to tissue in the area, but it also strengthens your sphincter. A stronger sphincter prevents stomach contents — or reflux — from moving into your esophagus.

The smaller incisions used with laparoscopic surgery mean a quicker recovery and less risk of infection, pain, and scarring. 

Recovering from hiatal hernia repair

Following the doctor’s instructions during your recovery process is nearly as important as finding the right surgeon to repair your hernia the first time.

In most cases, you have little pain when you undergo a laparoscopic hiatal hernia repair. However, you could have some discomfort in your chest and abdomen along with difficulty swallowing. These symptoms typically pass within 48 hours.

Dr. Rinker also provides instructions on what to eat while you heal from your procedure. You should plan on consuming clear liquids to start before moving on to liquefied or softened foods, like smoothies, soups, or mashed potatoes. 

In the days and weeks following your procedure, Dr. Rinker recommends:

You can typically return to work within 2-3 weeks or whenever you feel strong again.

If you have a hiatal hernia, or you’ve had surgery for your hiatal hernia and are still having pain, Dr. Rinker can help. Contact one of our offices in Gillette or Casper, Wyoming, by calling our friendly staff or requesting an appointment online today.

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