Zenker's Diverticulum

Zenker's diverticulum is a pouch at the back of the throat at a weak spot where the throat and esophagus join. These diverticula are uncommon and tend to occur in elderly people.


Patients with this condition often exhibit no symptoms. When food and saliva fill up the pouch, however, symptoms can occur and may include:

  • Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)
  • Undigested food that comes back up
  • Cough, especially at night
  • Hoarseness
  • Pneumonia
  • Bronchitis
  • Food getting into the breathing passages or lungs (aspiration)


barium swallow is the most effective way to diagnose a Zenker's diverticulum. The barium solution fills the pouch in the esophageal wall so that it can be seen on an X-ray.


Zenker's diverticula are normally not treated unless they cause symptoms.

Symptomatic diverticula are usually treated by surgery. The surgeon cuts the muscle between the throat and esophagus and removes the pouch.