January 2001

From Yale University

Common swallowing disorder corrected with surgical procedure at Yale

A minimally invasive endoscopic surgical procedure is being used at Yale to correct an often troublesome swallowing disorder called Zenker's diverticulum, which affects thousands of Americans.

"This procedure, initially popularized by doctors at Duke, is a breakthrough because it alleviates the need for invasive surgery directly through the neck and down the throat," said Douglas Ross, M.D., associate professor of surgery and otolaryngology at Yale School of Medicine. Ross performs the surgery along with Clarence Sasaki, M.D., the Charles W. Ohse Professor of Surgery and vice chair of the Department of Otolaryngology.

Zenker's diverticulum occurs when a pouch or sac is created by a protrusion in the lining of the mucous membrane through the muscular wall. According to Ross, food easily becomes trapped in the pouch, making it difficult to swallow, and causes regurgitation. Symptoms also include discomfort when swallowing, hoarseness and loss of voice.

"The problem becomes more serious in the elderly or infirm when large pouches can lead to choking, pneumonia, and malnourishment," said Sasaki.

Sasaki and Ross perform endoscopic surgery to remove the pouch through a small incision and repair the lining with a stapling device. The procedure is called stapler-assisted diverticulostomy.

"Patients who had Zenker's surgery can hardly believe how good they feel being able to drink and eat without pain," said Sasaki. "My patients are relieved to know that there was a treatment that didn't require a painful operation. The added benefit is that patients recover quickly, can eat immediately and are home the next day."












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