Background: Current information about outcomes in octogenarians undergoing cancer operations is limited largely to case series from selected centers. Population-based data can provide more realistic estimates of the risks and benefits of operations in this group.
Study design: We performed a retrospective cohort study of patients undergoing major resections for lung, esophageal, and pancreas cancer. Using the Nationwide Inpatient Sample (1994 to 2003), we examined operative mortality and discharge disposition in octogenarians (aged 80+ years), relative to younger patients (aged 65 to 69 years) (n = 272,662). We then used the Surveillance and End Results-Medicare-linked database (1992 to 2001) to measure late survival in the elderly (n = 14,088).
Results: Operative mortality among octogenarians was substantially higher than that of younger patients (aged 65 to 69 years) for all three cancers (esophagectomy, 19.9% versus 8.8%, p < 0.0001; pancreatectomy, 15.5% versus 6.7%, p < 0.0001; lung resection, 6.9% versus 3.7%, p < 0.0001). A large proportion of octogenarians were transferred to extended care facilities after operation, ranging from 24% after lung resection to 44% after esophagectomy. Five-year survival in octogenarians was low for all three cancers: 11% after pancreatectomy, 18% after esophagectomy and 31% after lung cancer resection. Survival among octogenarians with two or more comorbidities was worse than those with fewer comorbid diagnoses--10% versus 14% for pancreatectomy, 15% versus 23% for esophagectomy, and 27% versus 37% for lung resection.
Conclusions: Population-based outcomes after high-risk cancer operation in octogenarians are considerably worse than typically reported in case series and published survival statistics. Such information might better inform clinical decision making in this high-risk group.