A 25-year experience with open primary transthoracic repair of paraesophageal hiatal hernia

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The optimal surgical treatment of paraesophageal hiatal hernia is in debate. Our experience with a traditional transthoracic approach was reviewed to provide “benchmark” data against which newer surgical techniques can be measured.


Between 1977 and 2001, 240 patients had primary transthoracic repair of paraesophageal hiatal hernia. Presenting complaints included reflux (69%), pain (67%), dysphagia (36%), and bleeding or anemia (33%). Preoperative esophageal function testing showed abnormal reflux in 86%. Hernia types were combined (type III) in 92% and type IV in 8%. All patients had reduction of the hernia and a concomitant antireflux procedure. An esophageal lengthening Collis gastroplasty was performed in 96%.


There were 3 perioperative deaths (1.7%). The median length of hospital stay was 7 days. Early complications requiring reoperation occurred in 12 patients (5%) and included recurrent hernia in 4, leak in 3, and a tight hiatal closure in 3. Mean follow-up in 226 patients was 42 months (median 27.8 months). Satisfactory results were obtained in 86% of patients. Follow-up complaints (moderate or persistent symptoms) included dysphagia (4), reflux (1), dumping (3), and post-thoracotomy pain (1). Routine postoperative barium radiographs showed intact repair in 71% (108/153). Of 19 patients with an anatomic recurrence, 4 (2%) had more than a partial asymptomatic migration of the fundoplication and required reoperation. Postoperative esophageal function testing, obtained in 28% of the patients, showed abnormal gastroesophageal reflux in 2.


Open transthoracic repair of paraesophageal hiatal hernia provides good to excellent long-term control of both the hernia and gastroesophageal reflux with relatively low early morbidity.

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