Cricopharyngeal Dysfunction SymptomsDysfunction of the CP muscle typically occurs gradually and symptoms progress over time. Patients endorse a “sticking” sensation with solid foods, pills, and/or liquids. They also feel like “things don’t go down” when they eat and drink.
Cricopharyngeal Dysfunction DiagnosisA barium esophagram or modified barium swallow study (x-ray swallowing tests) allow clinicians to evaluate the function of the CP muscle. Food or liquid residue is seen in the throat after a patient swallows due to the incomplete passage of material through the upper esophageal sphincter. A test called an esophageal manometry can also be performed to measure the muscle contraction force and coordination along the entire esophagus during swallowing.
Treatment for Cricopharyngeal Dysfunction
There are several options for treatment of CP muscle dysfunction. Botulinum toxin can be injected into the muscle to help it relax (cricopharyngeal botulinum toxin injection). This can allow better passage of food through the upper esophageal sphincter. This treatment may need to be repeated. The CP muscle can also be dilated (stretched) which this is generally done at the same time as botulinum toxin injection in the operating room. Cricopharyngeal myotomy is a surgery that can be performed to address CP muscle dysfunction. The CP muscle is cut to improve of the upper esophageal sphincter. The improvements after this surgery are typically immediate, especially for patients with severe CP dysfunction.