The aim of this study was to assess prospectively the relationship of a hiatal hernia to gastro-oesophageal reflux. Ninety five children with symptoms of gastro-oesophageal reflux in whom reflux was demonstrated radiologically were investigated. Oesophageal pH monitoring for 18 hours and endoscopy were performed in all patients. On the basis of radiology, patients were divided into those with hiatal hernia (n = 37) and those without (n = 58). Both groups had the same number of reflux episodes on pH monitoring. However, the median duration of the longest episode was significantly greater in the hiatal hernia group (30 min v 19 min), as was the number of reflux episodes longer than five minutes (5 v 4). The percentage with a pH < 4 just failed to be significantly different (13% v 8%). Hiatal hernia was also found to correlate with the presence of oesophagitis. The presence of a hiatal hernia delays the clearance of acid from the oesophagus and is associated with an increased incidence of oesophagitis.