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Zenker’s Diverticulum

A Zenker’s Diverticulum is a pouch that occurs in the back of the throat. This pouch grows as muscles below it overtighten, making swallowing difficult. Diagnosis of a Zenker's Diverticulum is made during endoscopy or an x-ray swallowing study.

Symptoms of a Zenker’s Diverticulum:

  • Regurgitation of food contents, hours after a meal
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Coughing and choking on foods
  • “Lump in the throat” sensation
  • Sensation of "too much phlegm" in the throat

When left untretaed Zenker's Diverticulum affect the quality of life of patients. It can also be dangerous, causing choking on food, and the entry of food into the "wrong" pipe, into the lungs causing pneumonia and death. For this reason it is critically important to treat those with even a small Zenker's Diverticulum.

Zenker's Diverticulum surgery:

Treatment of this condition requires cutting the overactive cricopharyngeus muscle which is located at the bottom of the Zenker's Diverticulum. After this muscle is cut, food easily enters the esophagus and no longer gets stuck within the diverticulum. Surgery can be perfomed in two ways.

One approach is to use a laser or stapler and cut the muscle through the mouth. This minimally inavsive approach typically takes fifteen minutes to perform, and is ideal for patients with small pouches.

For larger pouches, a small cut on the neck is made and the muscle is cut, and the pouch is removed. Although this surgery takes longer to complete patients do very well afterwards. .

Why treat Zenker's Diverticulum at UC Irvine?

Our highly experienced director of the University Voice and Swallowing Center, Sunil P. Verma, M.D. is an expert in the management of Zenker's Diverticulum and has expertise performing both the transoral and "open" surgical procedures. Because treatment of Zenker's Diverticulum is so important for quality of life and safety, he has performed this surgery for numerous patients, including many over the age of 90 years old.

If you are suffering from difficulty swallowing, or have been diagnosed with a Zenker's Diverticulum, schedule a consultation with Dr. Sunil Verma by calling (714) 456-7017.