Plummer-Vinson Syndrome Treatment & Management

Updated: Jun 29, 2020
  • Author: Louis Michel Wong Kee Song, MD; Chief Editor: BS Anand, MD  more...
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Medical Care

Plummer-Vinson syndrome (PVS) is usually managed on an outpatient basis. Consult with gastroenterologists for the management of dysphagia requiring dilation.

Treat iron deficiency and its underlying cause

Iron replacement is necessary to correct the anemia, if present, and to resolve most of the physical signs of iron deficiency. The necessity for continued iron treatment is doubtful other than for anemia correction. [29]

Dysphagia may improve with iron replacement alone, particularly in patients whose webs are not substantially obstructive. [30] Dysphagia caused by more advanced webs is unlikely to respond to iron replacement alone and, thus, is managed with mechanical dilation.

Address the cause of the iron deficiency (eg, celiac sprue, bleeding angiectasias).

Treat dysphagia and the web

Aside from iron replacement, diet modification may be sufficient in mildly symptomatic patients. Those with significant and long-standing dysphagia usually require mechanical dilation. The web can often be disrupted during simple passage of the endoscope into the esophagus. Otherwise, passage of a bougie (eg, Savary dilator) is quite effective. In most cases, passage of a single large dilator is adequate and is thought to be more effective than serial progressive dilations.

In a prospective study of 37 patients, Goel et al found that esophageal-web related dysphagia in patients with PVS responded favorably after one session of endoscopic dilation. Thirty-one symptomatic patients had dysphagia grade 1 (n = 12, 39%), 2 (n = 13, 42%), and 3 (n = 6, 19%) for a median duration of 24 months. After the first session of endoscopic dilatation, 29 out of 31 patients (94%) had a complete response and two patients (6%) had a partial response without any complications. [31]

Fluoroscopic guidance is usually not required unless a tight web precludes further passage of the endoscope. The proximal location of the webs in PVS makes endoscopic balloon dilation difficult, but it has been performed successfully by radiology under fluoroscopic guidance. [32, 33]

ND:YAG laser therapy has also been reported as a successful means of disrupting an esophageal web. [34] This modality is rarely required.

Needle-knife electroincision has been described as a therapeutic alternative to dilation. [35]


Advise patients to eat slowly and chew thoroughly. Solid foods should be prepared and cut in small pieces, especially meats.


Surgical Care

Surgery is rarely needed and is reserved for patients whose webs are recalcitrant to dilation or associated with Zenker diverticulum.


Long-Term Monitoring

Perform follow-up complete blood cell counts (CBCs) and iron studies in 3 months, after initiation of iron replacement, to document resolution of sideropenia and anemia.

Provide follow-up care for patients whose treatment has been initiated for the specific cause, if any, of the iron deficiency anemia.

Repeat esophageal dilations may be required in patients with recurrent dysphagia.