Objective: Barrett's esophagus is caused by gastroesophageal reflux and predisposes to adenocarcinoma. Hiatal hernia may cause reflux. The prevalence and size of hernias in patients with Barrett's esophagus was investigated.
Methods: Axial hernia length and the width of the diaphragmatic hiatus were measured prospectively at endoscopy.
Results: A 2-cm or longer hernia was found in 96% of 46 patients with Barrett's esophagus, in 42% of 103 controls (p < 0.001), and in 72% of 18 patients with short segment Barrett's esophagus (p < 0.05 vs controls). A hernia was found in 71% of 31 controls with esophagitis and in 29% of 72 controls without esophagitis (p < 0.001). Of 54 controls with neither esophagitis or reflux symptoms, 20% had a hernia. Mean hernia length was 3.95 cm in Barrett's esophagus, and 2.81 cm in controls (p < 0.005). Mean hiatus width was 3.52 cm in patients with Barrett's esophagus and hernia, and 2.24 cm in controls with hernia. Hernia length was similar in patients with and without esophagitis, and in short segment Barrett's esophagus.
Conclusions: Most patients with Barrett's esophagus have hiatal hernia; their hernias are longer and the hiatal openings wider than in controls with or without esophagitis. Hiatal hernia likely contributes to the development of Barrett's esophagus.