Oesophageal diverticula

An oesophageal diverticulum (plural: diverticula) is a protruding pouch in the lining of the oesophagus.

Overview

An oesophageal diverticulum (plural: diverticula) is a protruding pouch in the lining of the oesophagus. This pocket-like structure is caused by internal pressure from a swallowing disorder or by external pressure, e.g. due to scarring. Diverticula typically form in weak spots in the oesophagus. Symptoms include swallowing difficulties, a tickle in the throat and bad breath. Undigested food is regurgitated.

Symptoms

  • Swallowing difficulties
  • Foreign body sensation in throat
  • Tickle in throat
  • Bad breath
  • Regurgitation of undigested food
  • Pain in upper abdomen
  • Pressure and pain behind the sternum
  • Sometimes, coughing up of food residues at night (see pillow)

Complications

  • Food residues get sucked into the airways (aspiration)
  • Perforation, formation of fistula (passages)
  • Bleeding of diverticula (seldom)

Causes and treatment

Causes

True diverticula
  • Inflammation and scarring of lymph nodes
  • Consequence
    • Oesophagus is stretched through external pressure
    • Entire wall bulges outwards
False diverticula
  • Impaired relaxation of upper or lower oesophageal sphincter muscles
  • Consequence
    • Impaired swallowing
    • Feeling that food is caught in the throat
    • Increased pressure in oesophagus
    • Bulging of mucous membrane

Further treatment by your doctor / in hospital

Possible tests
  • X-ray (swallow test with contrasting agent)
  • Oesophagoscopy
  • Measurement of oesophageal pressure
Possible therapies
  • When in discomfort: surgical removal of diverticulum

What can I do myself?

  • Active prevention isn’t possible
  • Balanced diet
    • Low in fat
    • Rich in fibre
    • Lots of fruit and vegetables
  • Small portions (to protect digestive tract)
  • Avoid acidic and carbonated food and beverages
  • No alcohol
  • Don’t go to bed on a full stomach

When to see a doctor?

  • Swallowing problems for several weeks
  • Regurgitation of undigested food residues
  • Foreign body sensation in throat
  • Pain
    • When swallowing
    • At night
    • Behind the sternum

Synonyms

oesophageal diverticula, oesophageal diverticuli, Zenker's diverticulum, diverticula of the oesophagus, oesophageal pouches, Zenker's diverticula, traction diverticula, pulsion diverticula, esophageal diverticula

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CSS offers no guarantee for the accuracy and completeness of the information. The information published is no substitute for professional advice from a doctor or pharmacist.

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