Zenker’s Diverticula

What is it?
A Zenker’s diverticulum is a small outpouching that forms just above the circular muscle that forms the upper esophageal sphincter, called the cricopharyngeus.  The outpouching develops in an area of muscle weakness as patients repeatedly swallow through a tight cricopharyngeus (see below).  The diverticula can become large enough that food becomes trapped during swallowing.  Symptomatic patients often have difficulty swallowing solid foods and develop the feeling that food gets stuck.  As the diverticulum enlarges, patients also can regurgitate food after swallowing.

 

How is it treated?
After being confirmed with a special imaging study, Zenker’s diverticula are well-suited for surgical management.  Surgeons with expertise in the field offer endoscopic treatment that typically leads to immediate symptomatic resolution.  In rare cases, an open surgical procedure is required.