General Surgery

Your Healing: Tips for Before & After Hiatal Hernia Surgery

Thu, May 16, 2024

Your Healing: Tips for Before & After Hiatal Hernia Surgery

The decision of whether to undergo hiatal hernia surgery should not be taken lightly and should be thoroughly discussed with your medical provider. Once you have made the decision, together with your doctor, to undergo hiatal hernia surgery, it is crucial to properly prepare yourself both physically and mentally for the procedure. Proper preparation can help ensure a successful surgery and smoother recovery afterward. Read on to learn more about considerations before and after hiatal hernia surgery to ensure that your life after the procedure is enjoyable and successful.

Definition of a Hiatal Hernia

A hiatal hernia occurs when the upper part of the stomach protrudes through the diaphragm and into the chest cavity. This condition is common and can cause symptoms such as heartburn, chest pain, difficulty swallowing, wheezing, and regurgitation of food. While lifestyle changes and medication can often provide relief, some cases may require surgical intervention. The decision to move ahead with surgery should be made with a doctor. Hiatal hernia surgery aims to repair the weakened area of the diaphragm and reduce symptoms.

When Should I Consider Surgery?

The decision to undergo hiatal hernia surgery is typically based on the severity of symptoms and the effectiveness of nonsurgical treatments. If you have been experiencing persistent and severe symptoms despite trying conservative measures, your doctor may recommend surgery as an option.

Two of the main indications for surgery are the size of the hernia and if the hiatal hernia is causing significant discomfort or complications. Symptoms such as chronic heartburn, acid reflux, regurgitation, difficulty swallowing, chest pain, and shortness of breath can greatly affect your quality of life. If these symptoms are not adequately controlled with medications or lifestyle modifications, they may lead to conditions such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), esophagitis (inflammation of the esophagus), Barrett’s esophagus (a precancerous condition), or volvulus (twisting of the stomach). In these cases, surgery may be considered to prevent further damage.

Ultimately, the decision to undergo hiatal hernia surgery should be a collaborative one between you and your health-care team. They will consider your symptoms, medical history, any complications, and the potential benefits and risks associated with surgery. It’s important to discuss all available treatment options, including surgical and nonsurgical approaches, to make an informed decision.

How Do I Prepare for Hiatal Hernia Repair?

Diagram of a hiatal herniaRegardless of what type of hiatal hernia surgery you and your doctor choose to pursue, proper preparation ahead of your surgery date is essential. Before surgery, your doctor may request several tests to assess your overall health and fitness for the procedure. These may include blood tests, chest X-rays, and an electrocardiogram (ECG) to evaluate your heart’s condition. Additionally, you may be advised to temporarily discontinue certain medications and avoid certain foods. Foods such as chocolate, caffeine, and acidic fruits should be avoided to prevent additional acid reflux and gastrointestinal problems.

In the days leading up to the surgery, it is crucial to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Eating a balanced diet rich in non-acidic fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins can help optimize your body’s healing abilities. Regular exercise, as approved by your healthcare provider, can also strengthen your muscles and improve respiratory function, which can aid in a smoother recovery.

It is also important to follow any fasting instructions provided by your surgeon. Typically, you will be asked to abstain from eating or drinking anything for a specific period before the surgery. This is done to ensure an empty stomach, reducing the risk of complications during anesthesia.

After the Surgery

After hiatal hernia surgery, you may experience some common side effects such as bloating, gas, or difficulty swallowing. These symptoms usually subside gradually as the body adapts to the surgical changes. It’s crucial to follow your surgeon’s instructions and take any prescribed medications as directed.

Proper wound care is also paramount to promote healing and prevent infection. This may include keeping the wounds clean and dry, changing dressings regularly, and avoiding activities that may strain or reopen the incisions.

While it’s natural to experience some discomfort after hiatal hernia surgery, it is essential to listen to your body and avoid any strenuous activities that could hinder your recovery. However, light walking is encouraged to promote blood circulation and prevent blood clots. Your surgeon will advise you on any activity restrictions and when it is safe to resume regular activities.

Diet After Hiatal Hernia Surgery

Maintaining a healthy diet is another crucial aspect of your postoperative care. Your surgeon or a registered dietitian will likely provide specific dietary guidelines for what to eat after hiatal hernia surgery, which often starts with an all-liquid diet but will soon progress to soft foods. Your doctor or dietitian will also have a list of foods to avoid during your recovery. One of the several food items to avoid after surgery is chocolate, as it contains caffeine and can stimulate and irritate the digestive system while it is trying to heal.

In addition to following dietary restrictions, it is advised to eat smaller, frequent meals instead of large portions. This can help prevent stomach congestion and reduce the risk of acid reflux. Additionally, it is recommended to chew your food thoroughly and eat slowly to aid in proper digestion.

“Highly acidic and caffeinated foods such as coffee, chocolate, and carbonated beverages should be strictly avoided while recovering from a hiatal hernia procedure as these can significantly irritate your digestive system and significantly hinder your recovery.” – Dr. Thomas Scarritt, General Surgeon, EmergeOrtho

Weight Loss After Hiatal Hernia Surgery

Weight management plays a significant role in the success of your recovery. To effectively manage weight, a combination of a balanced diet and regular exercise is key. It is crucial for patients to consult with their healthcare provider or a registered dietitian to develop a personalized meal plan that meets their specific needs.

A diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins can provide essential nutrients while minimizing calorie intake. Portion control is also important, as consuming large meals can aggravate your digestive system post-surgery.

Incorporating exercise into a daily routine is equally important for weight management. Engaging in regular physical activity not only burns calories but also strengthens the muscles surrounding the abdomen, including the diaphragm.

It is important for patients to understand that weight management is a lifelong commitment, even after hiatal hernia surgery. By maintaining a healthy weight through ongoing efforts, patients can prevent the recurrence of the hernia and promote overall well-being.

Learn More About Hiatal Hernia Surgery Pre- and Post-Care

If your hiatal hernia symptoms have become too much, or you and your doctor have already discussed the possibility of needing hiatal hernia surgery, you can rest assured that the team at North Carolina Specialty Hospital will work with you to ensure you experience the fullest and most successful recovery from your procedure.

Learn more about our general surgery practice and how our team is fully equipped to help you through hiatal hernias and dozens of other general surgery procedures.

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