Pharyngeal (Zenker's) diverticulum is a disorder of upper esophageal sphincter opening

Gastroenterology. 1992 Oct;103(4):1229-35. doi: 10.1016/0016-5085(92)91508-2.


Pharyngeal coordination, sphincter opening, and flow pressures during swallowing were investigated in patients with pharyngeal (Zenker's) diverticula. Fourteen patients with diverticula and 9 healthy age-matched controls were studied using simultaneous videoradiography and manometry. Pharyngeal and upper esophageal sphincter pressures were recorded by a perfused side hole/sleeve assembly. Temporal relationships among swallowing events, extent of sphincter opening during swallowing, and intrabolus pressure during bolus passage across the sphincter were measured. The timing among pharyngeal contraction and sphincter relaxation, opening, and closure did not differ between patients and controls. Sphincter opening was significantly reduced in patients compared with controls in sagittal (P = 0.0003) and transverse (P = 0.005) planes. Manometric sphincter relaxation was normal in patients. Intrabolus pressure was significantly greater in patients than in controls (P = 0.001). It is concluded that Zenker's diverticulum is a disorder of diminished upper esophageal sphincter opening that is not caused by pharyngosphincteric incoordination or failed sphincter relaxation. Incomplete sphincter opening is likely to cause dysphagia. Increased hypopharyngeal pressures during swallowing are probably important in the pathogenesis of the diverticulum.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Esophagogastric Junction / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle Relaxation
  • Pressure
  • Zenker Diverticulum / physiopathology*