Pharyngeal pouch

This is the medical name for a condition in which there is a weakness in the lower part of the pharynx which causes the muscles to balloon outwards and form a pouch.

Hence the name ‘pharyngeal pouch’.

This occurs at the bottom of the pharynx and just above the upper oesophageal sphincter muscle.

This ‘pouch’worsens over time due to repeated swallowing.

Causes of pharyngeal pouch

Some people are more prone than others to developing a pharyngeal pouch. It is difficult to say why this happens but several theories have been put forward, for example a weakness in the muscles of the pharynx due to the ageing process.

However, there are a few risk factors for this which includes:

  • Acid reflux
  • Smoking
  • Excess alcohol consumption
  • Stroke or a similar condition
  • Surgery which has been performed in that area of the body

If you are at high risk of developing acid reflux then be aware that this also increases your risk of a pharyngeal pouch.

Symptoms of pharyngeal pouch

The most common symptom is the sensation of a lump in the throat also known as dysphagia, which causes difficulty in swallowing. Other symptoms include regurgitation of food, bad breath and coughing. A ‘gurgling’ sound may be heard during swallowing.

Treatment for pharyngeal pouch

If you experience any of these symptoms then consult your GP. He or she will refer you to a specialist for further investigation. This is important as there may be an underlying cause of your condition such as a stroke or acid reflux disease.

The oesophagus will be examined using a medical imaging technique called ‘barium swallow’. This involves swallowing a liquid which leaves a coating on the oesophagus and will enable it to be seen on an X-ray.

This is usually treated by endoscopic surgery although open surgery is another option. The muscle responsible for causing the pouch is incised and the pouch stapled.

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