Objective: To determine the impact of clinical presentation variables on the management and survival of patients with gastrointestinal (GI) tract carcinoid tumors.
Methods: A 20-year (1975-1995) retrospective analysis of 150 patients with GI tract carcinoid tumors at the Massachusetts General Hospital was conducted. Median follow-up was 66 months (range 1-378). Survival estimates for prognostic factors were calculated using Kaplan-Meier product limit estimators, with death from carcinoid as the outcome. Univariate analyses for each factor were obtained using a log-rank test, and multivariate survival analysis was performed.
Results: All but two patients underwent surgical intervention with the intent to cure (90%) or debulk the tumor (9%). Mean age at presentation was 55 +/- 18 years (range 11-90). There was a slight female/male predominance (80:70). Symptoms were nonspecific; the most common were abdominal pain (40%), nausea and vomiting (29%), weight loss (19%), and GI blood loss (15%). Incidental carcinoids, discovered at the time of another procedure, occurred in 40% of patients and were noted at multiple sites throughout the GI tract. The distribution of tumors was ileojejunum (37%), appendix (31 %), colon (13%), rectum (12%), stomach (4%), duodenum (1.3%), and Meckel's diverticulum (1.3%). Of the 27 patients with documented liver metastases, carcinoid syndrome developed in only 13 patients (48%), manifested by watery diarrhea (100%), upper body flushing (70%), asthma (38%), and tricuspid regurgitation (23%). All 13 patients with carcinoid syndrome had elevated levels of 5-HIAA, but the absolute levels did not correlate with the severity of symptoms. An additional 11 patients, 3 without liver metastases, had elevated levels of 5-HIAA without any evidence of carcinoid syndrome. Multicentric carcinoid tumors occurred in 15 patients (10%), and all but one of these tumors were centered around the ileocecal valve. There was no difference in the incidence of liver metastases between solitary (18%) and multicentric carcinoids (20%). Synchronous noncarcinoid tumors were present in 33 patients (22%), and metachronous tumors developed in an additional 14 patients (10%) in follow-up. Age and tumor size, depth, and location were significant predictors of metastases. By multivariate analysis, age > or = 50 years, metastases, and male gender were statistically significant predictors of death.
Conclusions: Gastrointestinal tract carcinoid tumors have a nonspecific clinical presentation, except in the case of the carcinoid syndrome. Surgical resection is the treatment of choice for improving survival. Surgically treated patients with carcinoid tumor have an overall favorable 83% 5-year survival rate.