How are diaphragmatic hernias different from abdominal wall hernias?

Diana Meeks
Diana Meeks on behalf of Sigma Nursing
Family Practitioner

A diaphragmatic hernia is different from an abdominal wall hernia. A diaphragmatic hernia (hiatal hernia) involves a portion of the stomach pushing up through the diaphragmatic muscle and into the chest. An abdominal wall hernia involves a portion of intestine pushing out the abdomen muscle wall. A diaphragmatic hernia that is the result of a congenital defect is more serious, and requires prenatal or immediate surgery after birth.

Hernias of the diaphgram and abdominal wall are different in terms of their location and symptoms. Abdominal wall hernias usually cause pain from the hernia contents becoming trapped within the hernia, such as intestine or abdominal fat.


Hernias of the diaphgram, also known as hiatal hernias or paraesophageal hernias, are very common and usually cause symptoms of heartburn, reflux, and difficulty swallowing. They may cause chest pain similar to that of a heart attack. Diaphragm hernias are only repaired if patients are sypmtomatic, and this operation usually requires an antireflux procedure on the stomach that is done that the same time. These operations are usually done laparoscopically, and patients with diaphragm hernias tend to have very good results after repair.

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