Objective: This study aims to evaluate the risk of esophagectomy in the elderly compared with younger patients and to determine whether results of esophagectomy in the elderly have improved in recent years. Summary Background Data: An increased life expectancy has led to more elderly patients presenting with carcinoma of the esophagus in recent years. Esophagectomy for carcinoma of the esophagus is associated with significant morbidity and mortality, and advanced age is often considered a relative contraindication to esophagectomy despite advances in modem surgical practice. Methods: The perioperative outcome and long-term survival of 167 elderly patients (70 years or more) with esophagectomy for carcinoma of the esophagus were compared with findings in 570 younger patients with esophagetomy in the period 1982 to 1996. Changes in perioperative outcome and survival between 1982 to 1989 and 1990 to 1996 were separately analyzed. Results: The resection rate in the elderly was 48% (167/345), lower than the 65% (570/874) resection rate in younger patients (p < 0.001). There were significantly more preoperative risk factors and postoperative medical complications in the elderly, but no significant differences were observed in surgical complications. The 30-day mortality rate was higher in the elderly (7.2%) than in younger patients (3.0%) (p = 0.02), but the hospital mortality rate was not significantly different in the elderly (18.0%) and younger age groups (14.4%) (p = 0.27). The long-term survival after curative resection in elderly patients was worse than younger patients (p = 0.01). However, when deaths from unrelated medical conditions were excluded from analysis, survival was similar between the two age groups (p = 0.23). A comparison of data for the periods 1982 to 1989 and 1990 to 1996 revealed that the resection rate had increased from 44% to 54% in the elderly, with significantly fewer postoperative complications and lower 30-day and hospital mortality rates. Long-term survival has also improved, although this has not reached a statistically significant level. Conclusions: With current surgical management, esophagectomy for carcinoma of the esophagus can be carried out with acceptable risk in the elderly, but intensive perioperative support is required. The improved results of asophagectomy in the elderly in recent years are attributed to increased experience and better perioperative management. Long-term survival was similar to that of younger patients, excluding deaths caused by unrelated medical conditions.
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