Diagnosing a hiatus hernia 

A hiatus hernia can usually be diagnosed after a gastroscopy or X-ray.

Gastroscopy

gastroscopy is a procedure where the inside of your body is examined using a gastroscope (a long, thin flexible tube with a light and video camera at one end), which sends images to an external monitor.

The gastroscope will be inserted into your mouth and down your throat, and will be used to help identify any problems. The procedure may be carried out using a local anaesthetic or a sedative to help you relax.

Read more about how a gastroscopy is carried out.

Barium meal X-ray

The barium meal X-ray, also called the barium swallow test, is an effective way of identifying a hiatus hernia.

As part of the test, you'll be asked to drink some barium solution. Barium is a non-toxic chemical that shows up clearly on an X-ray. Once the barium moves down into your digestive system, a series of X-rays will be taken to identify any problems.

If you need to have a barium meal X-ray, you won't be able to eat or drink anything for at least six hours before the procedure, so that your stomach and duodenum (the top of the small intestine) are empty. You may be given an injection to relax the muscles in your digestive system.

You'll be given a white, chalky liquid containing barium to drink while lying down. This will allow the specialist to see your stomach on an X-ray monitor more easily, as well as any ulcers or abnormal growths. Your bed may be tipped slightly during the test, so that the barium fills all the areas of your stomach.

A barium swallow usually takes about 15 minutes to perform. Afterwards, you'll be able to eat and drink as normal, although you may need to drink more water to help flush the barium out of your system.

You may feel slightly sick after a barium meal X-ray and the barium may cause constipation. Your stools may also be white for a few days afterwards, as the barium passes through your system.

Page last reviewed: 12/03/2015

Next review due: 12/03/2017