Esophageal Diverticula


Article Author:
Julie Yam


Article Editor:
Sarah Ahmad


Editors In Chief:
Yvonne Carter
Jason Wallen


Managing Editors:
Avais Raja
Orawan Chaigasame
Carrie Smith
Abdul Waheed
Khalid Alsayouri
Frank Smeeks
Kristina Soman-Faulkner
Trevor Nezwek
Radia Jamil
Patrick Le
Sobhan Daneshfar
Anoosh Zafar Gondal
Saad Nazir
William Gossman
Pritesh Sheth
Hassam Zulfiqar
Navid Mahabadi
Steve Bhimji
John Shell
Matthew Varacallo
Heba Mahdy
Ahmad Malik
Mark Pellegrini
James Hughes
Beata Beatty
Nazia Sadiq
Hajira Basit
Phillip Hynes
Tehmina Warsi


Updated:
2/15/2019 1:01:27 PM

Introduction

An esophageal diverticulum is a relatively rare disease of the esophagus.[1] It is an outpouching of the esophageal mucosa and is usually asymptomatic. Patients typically present when they have symptoms of regurgitation or dysphagia. 

There are different ways to categorize esophageal diverticulum. Esophageal diverticula can be divided into true and false diverticula. True diverticula are outpouchings that include all layers of the esophageal wall while false diverticula only include the mucosa or submucosa.

An esophageal diverticulum can also be characterized by how it is formed: pulsion or traction.[2] Pulsion diverticula are created when there is increased intraluminal pressure causing herniation of the esophageal wall in an area of weakness and usually occur in the setting of dysmotility of the esophagus.[3] Traction diverticula occur when there is an external force on the esophageal wall such as mediastinal inflammation that adheres and pulls on the esophageal wall creating a defect or diverticulum.

An esophageal diverticulum can also be categorized based on location as pharyngeal (Zenker) diverticula, mid-esophageal diverticula, and epiphrenic diverticula. Pharyngeal diverticula are considered false diverticula.[1][4] They usually occur in the hypopharynx where there is a weakness in the area known as Killian's triangle.[5] Killian's triangle is an area bound by the cricopharyngeus muscles and inferior pharyngeal constrictor muscles. These are usually formed by pulsion. A mid-esophageal diverticulum is usually true diverticulum and normally caused by traction from mediastinal inflammation. Epiphrenic diverticula are usually false diverticula located in the distal 10 cm of the esophagus. Similar to pharyngeal diverticula, they are also usually caused by pulsion from motility disorders that cause an increase in lower esophageal sphincter pressure such as achalasia.

Etiology

While the etiology of esophageal diverticula is not fully known, there is a thought that the diverticula form when there is an increase in luminal pressure, and the pressure pushes outward where there is a weakness in the lumen resulting in an outpouching of the mucosa.[2] It can also be seen as a complication from an esophageal motility disorder such as achalasia.

Epidemiology

Esophageal diverticula occur in less than 1% of the population[2]. They are found in approximately 1% to 3% of those presenting with dysphagia. It can occur in all ages but are typically diagnosed in the elderly. They are usually found more in men than in women.

Pathophysiology

There are different ways that esophageal diverticulum can form. Pulsion diverticula occur when there is an inadequate relaxation of either the upper or lower esophageal sphincter resulting in increased intraluminal pressure and subsequent herniation of the esophageal wall at an area of weakness.[1] These usually occur in achalasia and esophageal dysmotility. Traction diverticula occur when there is an external force on the esophageal wall that pulls on the esophageal wall creating a diverticulum. These usually occur in the middle esophagus due to mediastinal inflammation adhering to the esophagus and retracting it to form the defect.

Histopathology

The esophagus is composed of 4 layers; from the lumen going outward, they are the mucosa, submucosa, muscularis, and adventitia. True diverticula consist of all esophageal wall layers within the protrusion.[4] With false diverticula, only the mucosa and submucosa layers will be seen. Squamous cell carcinoma can rarely be found in conjunction with esophageal diverticula.

History and Physical

Symptomatic patients typically present with dysphagia.[4] Other presenting symptoms include regurgitation of intact food, aspiration pneumonia, weight loss, halitosis, and cough due to food being retained within the diverticulum. Patients rarely present with a mass in the neck. However, most patients are asymptomatic and may never be diagnosed with the diverticulum until they become symptomatic.

Evaluation

Most patients are diagnosed by barium esophagram.[4] This study helps give information regarding location and size besides the diagnosis. Esophagogastroduodenoscopy can be done to confirm the diagnosis and is sometimes the initial diagnostic test. They can also be found incidentally on video swallow studies.

Treatment / Management

If patients are asymptomatic, then the diverticula are left intact.[4][6] This is usually the case in mid-esophageal and epiphrenic diverticula.[7] However, for symptomatic patients, there are surgical and endoscopic therapeutic options. This is more often seen in the pharyngeal diverticulum. Therapeutic options include diverticulectomy, diverticulopexy, and diverticular inversion, with or without myotomy, and myotomy alone.[8] Surgical options include open or laparoscopic approach. Most often, patients undergo minimally invasive myotomy and removal of the pouch endoscopically with either a soft or rigid endoscope.[9] If patients are not surgical candidates, then management with diet changes such as eating bland food and drinking water after every bite to help flush any food out of the diverticulum is recommended.

Differential Diagnosis

Differential diagnoses include achalasia, esophageal cancer, esophageal stricture, gastroesophageal reflux, and presbyesophagus.[2] It is important to obtain a good history to help distinguish between these possible diagnoses.

Prognosis

Prognosis of these patients is dependent on their age and comorbidities as this will determine their surgical candidacy.[10] Risks and benefits need to be weighed. Most patients will have good results as far as immediate resolution of symptoms with surgical treatment with varied recurrence rates. However, surgical complications can be serious and need to be considered when deciding on whether to pursue surgical treatment and which surgical approach to pursue.

Complications

Esophageal diverticula complications are rare but include esophageal obstruction, perforation, and squamous cell carcinoma.[10]

Postoperative and Rehabilitation Care

Post-operative complications include bleeding, hematoma, infection, esophageal leaking at the repair site, fistula formation, mediastinal infection, esophageal perforation, esophageal stenosis, recurrent laryngeal nerve injury, and pneumomediastinum.[10] The rate of these complications will, of course, depend on the surgical or endoscopic approach and skill of the surgeon.

Pearls and Other Issues

Esophageal diverticula are a rare finding in the esophagus. However, it is something to consider in a patient with dysphagia and regurgitation, especially in the elderly. Most often, workup begins with a barium esophagram and can be confirmed by manometry or endoscopy. It is important to consider this diagnosis when performing endoscopy as esophageal perforation is at increased risk when pushing the scope blindly into the pouch.

Enhancing Healthcare Team Outcomes

It is important for the diagnosing physician, whether it be the patient's primary care physician or gastroenterologist, to discuss the diagnosis with the patient and its implications prior to deciding on a treatment plan. A treatment plan will need to involve careful consideration of the patient's comorbidities prior to consultation with a surgeon.


  • Image 6162 Not availableImage 6162 Not available
    Image courtesy S Bhimji MD
Attributed To: Image courtesy S Bhimji MD

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Esophageal Diverticula - Questions

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After chemotherapy for lung cancer, a patient now complains of dysphagia and a barium swallow reveals numerous small diverticula. What is the most likely cause of this pathology?



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Which of the following is a true diverticulum?



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A 60-year-old male undergoes esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD) for gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). An esophageal diverticulum is found in the upper esophagus. He has no gastrointestinal symptoms other than intermittent heartburn. What is the next step in the management of his esophageal diverticulum?



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Which of the following is true of esophageal diverticula?



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An 80-year-old male with a past medical history of systolic congestive heart failure and severe aortic stenosis who is oxygen dependent presents with dysphagia. He has an esophagram that shows a large Zenker diverticulum. How should this patient be managed?



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Which of the following is not a complication of esophageal diverticulum?



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Esophageal Diverticula - References

References

Hussain T,Maurer JT,Lang S,Stuck BA, [Pathophysiology, diagnosis and treatment of Zenker's diverticulum]. HNO. 2017 Feb     [PubMed]
Little RE,Bock JM, Pharyngoesophageal diverticuli: diagnosis, incidence and management. Current opinion in otolaryngology     [PubMed]
Wang ZM,Zhang SC,Teng X, Esophageal diverticulum serves as a unique cause of bronchoesophageal fistula in children: A case report. Medicine. 2017 Dec     [PubMed]
Le Mouel JP,Fumery M, Zenker's Diverticulum. The New England journal of medicine. 2017 Nov 30     [PubMed]
Sonbare DJ, Pulsion Diverticulum of the Oesophagus: More than just an Out Pouch. The Indian journal of surgery. 2015 Feb     [PubMed]
Thomas ML,Anthony AA,Fosh BG,Finch JG,Maddern GJ, Oesophageal diverticula. The British journal of surgery. 2001 May     [PubMed]
Fékéte F,Vonns C, Surgical management of esophageal thoracic diverticula. Hepato-gastroenterology. 1992 Apr     [PubMed]
Law R,Katzka DA,Baron TH, Zenker's Diverticulum. Clinical gastroenterology and hepatology : the official clinical practice journal of the American Gastroenterological Association. 2014 Nov     [PubMed]
Khullar OV,Shroff SR,Sakaria SS,Force SD, Midesophageal Pulsion Diverticulum Resulting From Hypercontractile (Jackhammer) Esophagus. The Annals of thoracic surgery. 2017 Feb     [PubMed]
Yuan Y,Zhao YF,Hu Y,Chen LQ, Surgical treatment of Zenker's diverticulum. Digestive surgery. 2013     [PubMed]

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