A procedure in which the cricopharyngeus muscle, which makes a “ring” around the upper esophagus, is divided or cut across in order to break its grip. A cricopharyngeal myotomy is done in cases where this cricopharyngeus muscle (i.e., the upper esophageal sphincter) fails to relax when one swallows (cricopharyngeal dysfunction), resulting in a functional obstruction.
Cricopharyngeal dysfunction can be seen alone, or, as illustrated below, in combination with a Zenker’s diverticulum. Symptoms of cricopharyngeal dysfunction include dysphagia, with solids more so than with liquids. If a Zenker’s diverticulum is present, the patient may also experience late “regurgitation” of undigested food retained for hours or longer in the sac.