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Esophageal Diverticulum

The walls of the tube-like esophagus are normally smooth. An uncommon disorder, an esophageal diverticulum is an outpouching that develops in a weakened area of the esophagus. This abnormality may cause problems eating and drinking, with food potentially getting stuck in the “pouch” and then being inhaled or aspirated into the lungs. A condition that progressively worsens over time, esophageal diverticulum most often strikes adults over 60 years of age.

The condition goes by several names, depending on the location of the pouch. The most common form, Zenker’s Diverticulum is found at the level of the lower neck and usually at the back of the throat.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

  • trouble swallowing (dysphagia)
  • coughing or choking
  • vomiting
  • neck pain
  • recurrent pneumonia  
  • unintended weight loss
  • bad breath (halitosis)

Esophageal diverticulum symptoms share similarities with those of other swallowing disorders and gastrointestinal conditions. It is important to obtain an accurate diagnosis from your primary care physician or gastroenterologist. Recommended diagnostics tests may include:

Surgical Treatment Options

Making dietary and behavioral modifications can help alleviate minor symptoms of esophageal diverticulum. You may find relief by adhering to a bland diet, taking small bites and chewing your food well, and drinking water during and after your meals.

For symptoms that persist or worsen, NorthShore offers a range of surgical options for the removal or repair of the outpouching of the esophagus. Our highly skilled thoracic surgeons have extensive experience providing therapies tailored to your specific diagnosis to achieve the best outcomes. Depending on the size and location of the diverticulum, your physician specialist may recommend:

  • Cricopharyngeal myotomy, which involves cutting the muscular sphincter at the top of the esophagus to relieve pressure and improve swallowing. This procedure can be done through either traditional open surgery or minimally-invasive endoscopic techniques.
  • Diverticulectomy to complete remove the abnormal sac through either traditional open surgery or minimally invasive endoscopic techniques
  • Transoral stapling, an endoscopic method of stapling of the common wall between the diverticula (pouch) and the esophagus that results in cricopharyngeal myotomy and fusion of the pouch lumen and esophagus

At NorthShore, we offer advanced procedures for all types of esophageal diverticulum, with particular expertise performing Zenker’s Diverticulectomy/Myotomy.

For More Information

To schedule an appointment with one of our thoracic surgeons, please call 847.570.2868.