Background: We assessed the morbidity, mortality, and long-term survival of pulmonary resection for non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) in elderly patients in three subgroups: 70 years or greater, 75 years or greater, and 80 years or greater.
Methods: A nested case-control study over a 5-year period using an electronic prospective database (n = 6,450) of patients with NSCLC who underwent complete resection. Patients 70 years or older, 75 years or older, and 80 years or older were matched 1:1 to younger controls for stage, pulmonary function, performance status, and type of pulmonary resection.
Results: There were 726 patients: 363 were 70 years of age or older (191 patients were 70 to 74 years old, 121 were 75 to 79, and 51 patients were 80 or older). There were 363 patients younger than 70 years of age. There was no significant difference in length of stay, major morbidity, or operative mortality between any of the elderly groups and the younger controls. However, elderly patients who received neoadjuvant therapy had three times the risk of developing major morbidity (odds ratio [OR] 2.8, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.14 to 7.41). There was a statistically significant better 5-year survival in elderly patients with stage I NSCLC (78% vs 69%, p = 0.01); however, survival was similar for all other stages.
Conclusions: Elderly patients with NSCLC should not be denied pulmonary resection based on chronologic age. Their short-term risks and long-term survival are similar to younger patients. Additionally, there seems to be no increased risk in selected octogenarians. However, elderly patients had double the risk for developing major morbidity after resection if they underwent neoadjuvant therapy.