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Gurvits Syndrome - Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

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An acute condition in which necrosis of the esophagus occurs is termed Gurvits syndrome. Read the article below to know more about it.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Jagdish Singh

Published At October 21, 2022
Reviewed AtMay 29, 2024

What Is Gurvits Syndrome?

Gurvits syndrome is a rare acute condition that leads to esophageal necrosis, also known as “black esophagus” or “necrotizing esophagitis.” This condition is characterized by a circumferential black appearance of the esophageal mucosa or by a striking diffuse patchy appearance that most commonly occurs in the distal esophagus and terminates the gastroesophageal junction. It commonly occurs in males at a ratio of 4:1 and has a high mortality rate. This condition also occurs in a setting of diabetic ketoacidosis.

What Are the Causes of Gurvits Syndrome?

Gurvits syndrome is potentially rare but is the most underdiagnosed condition. This condition arises as a result of an ischemic insult to the esophagus, an impaired mucosal barrier system, and backflow injury due to the chemical contents of gastric fluid and secretions. Cases are reported more in males than females. The most common symptom present is upper gastrointestinal bleeding with hematemesis and hemodynamic instability, which typically occurs in aged people. Those conditions occur due to broad-spectrum antibiotic usage, para esophageal hernia, hyperglycemia, diabetic ketoacidosis, gastric volvulus, any underlying malignancy, and Steven Johnson syndrome.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Gurvits Syndrome?

Gurvits syndrome is presented by multiple symptoms. The symptoms vary from the severity of the disorder. The most classic sign is the dark pigmentation of the esophageal mucosa that is detected by upper endoscopy. It is viewed as an ulcer or an infectious disease. Necrosis is found between the three distal parts of the esophagus but stops at the gastroesophageal junction. Other common symptoms include:

  • Blood in vomit.

  • Blood in stools.

  • Upper gastrointestinal bleeding.

  • Tarry black or bloody stools.

  • Abdominal pain.

  • Nausea.

  • Unstable vital signs.

  • Low-grade pyrexia.

  • Hypotension.

  • Tachycardia.

  • Hypoxia.

  • Hemodynamic instability.

  • Cardiogenic shock.

  • Even a cardiovascular event is reported in ten percent of cases.

What Are the Risk Factors for Gurvits Syndrome?

The risk factors of Gurvits syndrome include:

  • Ischemic heart disease.

  • Hypertension.

  • Type 2 diabetes.

  • Alcoholism.

  • Solid-organ malignancy.

  • Chronic liver disease.

  • Chronic kidney disease.

  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

  • Peripheral vascular disease.

  • Poor nutritional state.

How Is the Diagnosis Made for Gurvits Syndrome?

Diagnosis of Gurvits syndrome is made by:

  • Blood Test: Tests are done to evaluate a complete blood count, likely to reveal raised white blood cells, lactic acidosis, and anemia.

  • Gastroscopy: In cases of gastrointestinal bleeding, this is performed. In most cases, the necrosis results in the distal third of the esophagus. It can extend to the whole esophagus by 36 %. Other pathologies include gastric outlet, blood clots, gastric ulceration, active bleeding, and hiatus hernia.

  • CT Scan: A CT scan of the chest shows esophageal perforation performed in cases of diagnostic concerns.

  • Tissue Biopsy: This procedure is not often recommended for Gurvita syndrome, but this test can help in excluding other causes of the black esophagus.

What Is the Treatment for Gurvits Syndrome?

  • The treatment for esophagus necrosis depends on treating the underlying cause. Treatment for esophagus necrosis involves fluid resuscitation along with blood transfusion if there is significant anemia.

  • Patients are recommended not to take anything by mouth, and intravenous proton pump inhibitors are given to reduce local trauma to the vulnerable esophagus.

  • Sucralfate is used to reduce insult to the esophagus. A nasogastric tube should not be inserted as there is an underlying risk of esophagus perforation.

  • Antibiotics are given only if there is evidence of perforation or sepsis, or else they are not recommended.

  • Adrenaline injection during a gastroscopy or by metallic stent insertion is done to control localized bleeding.

  • In cases of perforation of the esophagus, surgery is the primary treatment. This involves emergency esophagectomy followed by elective esophageal reconstruction.

  • Stent insertion is effective but requires subsequent intervention to correct stent migration. A combination of VATS (video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery) and drain placement has reported success.

What Is the Differential Diagnosis of Gurvits Syndrome?

The differential diagnosis of Gurvits Syndrome are:

  • Black Dye Ingestion: Condition caused due to ingestion of black dye.

  • Direct Caustic Injury: Condition caused due to ingestion of causative or corrosive agents that cause direct injury to tissue.

  • Pseudomelanosis: A rare incidental finding during the endoscopic procedure by the darkly pigmented esophagus.

  • Malignant Melanoma: A serious skin cancer, melanoma which occurs when pigment-producing cells cause the color of the skin and become cancerous.

  • Acanthosis Nigricans: A skin condition characterized by velvety, dark patches in body creases and folds.

  • Coal Dust Deposition: A condition that occurs due to coal dust deposition and injury to the tissue.

What Is the Prognosis of Gurvits Syndrome?

Esophageal necrosis has a poor prognosis that results due to other accompanying conditions. The mortality rate stands under 30 %. Due to other conditions associated with Gurvits syndrome, it becomes tough to distinguish the reason responsible for the death. Thus, acute esophageal necrosis mortality is less than five percent.

What Are the Complications Associated With Gurvits Syndrome?

The complications associated with Gurvits syndrome include:

  • Esophageal perforation (a hole in the esophageal tube that carries food from the mouth to the stomach that can be caused due to any trauma).

  • Localized bleeding.

  • Upper gastrointestinal bleeding (upper gastrointestinal bleeding is the most serious sign and complication of many underlying diseased conditions).

  • Esophageal strictures (abnormal tightening of the esophagus, in rare cases, this condition may rip the lining of the esophagus, which can be a life-threatening condition).

  • Trachea-esophageal fistulas (abnormal development of the tube that carries food from the mouth to the stomach before birth).

Complications do not develop until at least two weeks after the initial onset of Gurvits syndrome. Management of stricture is done by iterative balloon dilation; it is an effective treatment. By this, the recovery rate increases in individuals without complications. However, follow-up endoscopy is recommended for approximately one month to rule out other sequelae.


Gurvits syndrome, or black esophagus, is a typical endoscopic manifestation of acute esophageal necrosis. Males are more affected than females, usually aged 60 years or above. Currently, there is no specific treatment for esophageal necrosis. The goal of treatment and therapy should be directed toward treating the underlying cause and medical condition. Though the prognosis is poor, correcting anemia, intravenous hydration, and red blood cell transfusion are considered in its initial management.

Frequently Asked Questions


Why Does the Esophagus Turn Black?

The black esophagus is caused by massive acid reflux. Persistent and extensive esophageal exposure to gastric fluids may cause a decline in blood flow to the esophageal mucosa and submucosa. A black esophagus can also be induced by severe vomiting.


What Makes the Distal Esophagus?

The distal thoracic esophagus consists of the distal half of the esophagus, starting from the tracheal bifurcation to the esophagogastric junction (32 to 40 centimeters from the gums). The esophagus spreads across the anterior to the heart and then enters the stomach.


What Is the Lifespan of an Individual With Esophageal Cancer?

In most cases, people with esophageal cancer usually do not survive for long. However, advancement in treatment has helped to improve the survival rates. Earlier only around five percent of patients survived for five years after diagnosis. However, recent data shows 20 percent of patients can survive for five years after diagnosis.


What Is the Survival Rate for Esophageal Cancer?

Current data reveals that the five-year survival rate for esophageal cancer is about 20 percent. However, the survival rates might vary from 5 to 47 percent. If esophageal cancer is diagnosed initially, the five-year survival rate is greater.


What Is the First Symptom of Esophageal Disease?

The first symptom of esophageal disease includes difficulty and pain with swallowing, burning or pressure in the chest, indigestion or heartburn, unexplained weight loss, frequent choking on food, vomiting, coughing or hoarseness, and pain behind the throat or breastbone.


Which Food Helps to Heal the Esophagus?

Food that helps to heal the esophagus includes a high-fiber, low-fat diet that is rich in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. The patient must consume an esophageal or soft food diet. These foods help to make eating less painful and prevent irritation in the esophagus.


How Is the Damage to the Esophagus Diagnosed?

Damage to the esophagus can be diagnosed using esophageal manometry, which includes a flexible, thin tube with pressure sensors that are passed through the nose into the esophagus and stomach. Esophageal manometry helps to diagnose certain disorders affecting the esophagus.


Can Esophagitis Be Fatal?

Esophagitis (inflammation of the food pipe) might have a severe effect on the quality of life. If esophagitis is left untreated, it may lead to a disorder called Barrett's esophagus (a condition with the flat pink lining of the esophagus damaged by acid reflux) that may increase the risk for esophageal cancer. However, the death rate is very low.


Can Esophageal Disease Be Cured?

The esophageal disease can be cured. However, the patient must come back for a follow-up. The doctor might recommend lifelong medicines to decrease acid and help the esophagus heal. If a treatment other than surgery for the removal of abnormal esophageal tissue is required, recurrence of Barrett's esophagus after treatment can occur.


What Is the Lifespan After Esophagectomy?

The Ivor Lewis esophagectomy is minimally invasive and shows positive long-term outcomes. The survival rate has been reported to be 62 percent at 3 years and 56 percent at 5 years. However, there is a high risk of around 40 to 60 percent of developing serious and sometimes fatal complications.


Which Specialty Doctor Treats Esophageal Problems?

Esophageal problems can be treated by a gastroenterologist who is a physician specializing in managing diseases of the gastrointestinal tract including the esophagus, stomach, colon and rectum, small intestine, gallbladder, pancreas, bile ducts, and liver.


Which Problem Is Most Commonly Associated With the Esophagus?

The most common problem associated with the esophagus is GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease). GERD inhibits the proper closure of a muscle at the end of the esophagus. This leads to the leaking of stomach contents back into the esophagus and irritates it. If GERD is left untreated it might damage the esophagus.


Is the Heart Affected by Esophagitis?

Certain studies reveal that esophageal stimulation can cause cardiac pain leading to cardiac dysrhythmia (an abnormal or irregular heartbeat) or coronary spasm obstructing coronary blood flow. Further, GERD  can worsen myocardial ischemia leading to esophageal dysmotility or relaxation of the lower esophageal sphincter.
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Dr. Jagdish Singh
Dr. Jagdish Singh

Medical Gastroenterology


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