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General Health Channel
Reported August 11, 1999

Throat Pouch

THROAT POUCH #1011
Television News Service/Medical Breakthroughs
©Ivanhoe Broadcast News, Inc. 1997


Imagine swallowing food and feeling as if it's stuck in your throat. For many people, that sensation is real because a pouch has grown in their throat that catches food as they swallow. Doctors can now easily get rid of the pouch.

Thomas De Shalford is saying goodbye to a nagging medical condition.

Thomas De Shalford, Had Zenker's surgery:
"The symptoms that I noticed were non-specific, but they were nonetheless, making the simplest things difficult for me...swallowing water, eating most foods."

After more than five years of pain, Thomas was diagnosed with a Zenker's diverticulum . It's a pouch that forms on the back wall of the throat where food gets trapped.

Richard Scher, M.D., Otolaryngologist, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC:
"Some people have a terrible problem with bad breath because the food is actually sitting in the pouch."

In elderly patients it can lead to malnourishment because the food never makes its way to the stomach. If the food goes down into their lungs, it can be deadly. Traditional surgery opens the neck completely and doctors cut the pouch off. Now, endoscopic tools allow doctors to work through the mouth. They cut a wall of muscle allowing the pouch to empty into the esophagus.

Richard Scher, M.D.:
"It's much simpler, it's less of a problem for patients to tolerate and to recover from."

For Thomas, relief was immediate.

Thomas De Shalford:
"It was noticed as soon as I had fully come out of anesthesia. I was able to swallow more easily. It has been a success."

Dr. Scher says a barium swallow test is very accurate in diagnosing a Zenker's diverticulum, but he worries that many people live with the symptoms and are never given a diagnosis.

If you would like more information, please contact:

Richard Merritt
Duke University Medical Center
Medical Center News Office
Box 3354
Durham, NC 27710
(919) 684-4148

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