What is the difference between reflux and a hiatal hernia?

Reflux can be caused by a hiatal hernia. A hernia is the medical term used when an internal organ slips out of place. A herniated disk in your spine is also called a slipped disk.

A hiatal hernia is when the stomach slips up into the chest cavity. The diaphragm is a sheet of muscle that divides the chest from the abdomen. The esophagus goes through the chest cavity, through an opening in the diaphragm (the "hiatus") and down into the abdominal cavity.


This is a stomach with no hernia. The arrows point to the opening in the diaphragm. The sphincter at the top of the stomach is positioned level with the diaphragm


This is a stomach with a hernia - part of the stomach is squeezed up into the chest cavity. This top pouch of the stomach gets squeezed by the lungs with every breath. If food gets stuck in in the pouch, it often backwashes up the esophagus.

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