Zenker's Diverticulum

Lakeshore Ear, Nose & Throat Center

Ear, Nose & Throat Doctors located in St. Clair Shores, Macomb Township, Rochester Hills, Grosse Pointe, and Sterling Heights, MI

Zenker’s diverticulum develops in the back of your throat at the top of your esophagus, where it collects food and makes it hard to swallow. The physicians at Lakeshore Ear, Nose & Throat Center have extensive experience performing minimally invasive surgery to repair Zenker’s diverticulum. If you’d like to learn more about surgical treatment for this condition, schedule an appointment online or call the nearest office in St. Clair Shores, Macomb Township, Rochester, Grosse Pointe, and Sterling Heights, Michigan.

Zenker's Diverticulum Q & A

What is Zenker’s diverticulum?

A diverticulum is an abnormal outpouching, or sac, that forms in a weak spot in the wall of your digestive tract. Zenker’s diverticulum, also known as pharyngoesophageal diverticulum, pharyngeal pouch, or hypopharyngeal diverticulum, is a pouch that develops right above the entrance to your esophagus.


What causes Zenker’s diverticulum?

A round muscle at the top of your esophagus, the upper esophageal sphincter, opens and closes at the proper time to prevent air from entering your esophagus, while also keeping food inside the esophagus.

When the esophageal sphincter is too tight, it’s hard for food to move from your throat into the esophagus. As a result, the food pushes through a weak spot on the back wall of your throat, eventually creating a diverticulum.

What are the symptoms of Zenker’s diverticulum?

You can have Zenker’s diverticulum and not have any symptoms until food and saliva fill the pouch, at which point you may experience:

  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Regurgitation of food out of the pouch
  • A chronic cough, especially at night
  • Hoarseness
  • Bad breath
  • Choking or coughing when eating
  • Food getting into your lungs

When food gets into your lungs, you can develop serious illnesses like pneumonia and bronchitis.


How is Zenker’s diverticulum treated?

First, your Lakeshore ENT physician performs a barium swallow with X-ray examination to confirm you have Zenker’s diverticulum. In some cases, they may do a fiberoptic endoscopic evaluation of your swallowing, as well as other tests to rule out possible esophageal abnormalities.

When your Zenker’s diverticulum becomes symptomatic, surgery is the only treatment option. The doctors at Lakeshore ENT prefer to use minimally invasive endoscopic surgery, cutting the muscle to loosen it and removing the pouch.

Minimally invasive surgery only takes about 15 minutes. It also promotes faster recovery, and you may even be able to eat later the same day.

In rare cases, you may have a diverticulum so large it requires traditional surgery. During this procedure, your doctor accesses the pouch and muscle through an incision in your neck. Traditional surgery takes longer and is more complex than minimally invasive surgery, but it’s also safe and effective.

If you ever feel like you have something stuck in your throat or you have difficulty swallowing, call Lakeshore Ear, Nose & Throat Center or book an appointment online today.

*Click here to learn more about our Professional Voice & Swallowing Center