Herpes esophagitis: clinical syndrome, endoscopic appearance, and diagnosis in 23 patients

Robert D. McBane, John B. Gross

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

92 Scopus citations


The unexpected diagnosis of herpetic esophagitis in a patient with nausea led us to review our experience with this disease. Review of our records from 1979 to 1989 produced 23 cases proven by endoscopic culture or microscopic examination (Cowdry-type A inclusions), the largest such series reported to date. Twenty-two of the 23 patients were immunocompromised. Odynophagia and chest pain were each present in half of the cases, but 26% of patients had neither. Gastrointestinal bleeding was attributable to herpetic esophagitis in 30%. Thirty percent of patients had disseminated herpes simplex infection and 70% had simultaneous infections with other organisms. Endoscopic findings included nonspecific inflammation, discrete ulcers, coalescent ulcers, and pseudomembranous esophagitis. Herpes virus was not suspected endoscopically as the cause of esophagitis in 30% of cases. Culture was slightly more sensitive than microscopic examination for diagnosis (89% vs. 76%), but both methods should be employed in any immunocompromised patient with esophagitis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)600-603
Number of pages4
JournalGastrointestinal endoscopy
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jan 1 1991

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Gastroenterology


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