The aim of this study was to assess clinical and radiological findings of gastro-oesophageal reflux in adults who were diagnosed as having a hiatal hernia in infancy or early childhood. One hundred and eighteen patients with a minimum age of 20 who were diagnosed as having a hiatal hernia in childhood were interviewed; barium meal examination was performed in 96 of these cases. Ninety four patients had not required surgery for their hernia. The hiatal hernia persisted in 53% of these patients and 46% experienced heartburn at least monthly but in only three was this severe. Heartburn was significantly more common in patients in whom reflux was seen on barium meal. The consumption of antacids was significantly lower (20% v 46%) in patients who responded well to treatment as children. Eighteen of 24 patients who underwent surgery as children experienced heart-burn monthly but in only one patient was this severe. Two patients underwent endoscopy at their request because of symptoms during this follow up. Both had Barrett's oesophagus. In conclusion, despite the persistence of the hiatal hernia in half of the non-surgically treated patients, few complained of significant symptoms. Effective treatment in childhood was associated with a significant reduction in antacid consumption for heartburn as adults. The finding of Barrett's oesophagus in two patients high-lights a possible role for endoscopic screening in this patient group.
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