Background: Colorectal cancer (CRC) is a major source of morbidity and mortality in the elderly population and surgery is often the only definitive management option. The suitability of surgical candidates based on age alone has traditionally been a source of controversy. Surgical resection may be considered detrimental in the elderly solely on the basis of advanced age. Based on recent evidence suggesting that age alone is not a predictor of outcomes, Western societies are increasingly performing definitive procedures on the elderly. Such evidence is not available from our region. We aimed to determine whether age has an independent effect on complications after surgery for colorectal cancer in our population.
Methods: A retrospective review of all patients who underwent surgery for pathologically confirmed colorectal cancer at Aga Khan University Hospital, Karachi between January 1999 and December 2008 was conducted. Using a cut-off of 70 years, patients were divided into two groups. Patient demographics, tumor characteristics and postoperative complications and 30-day mortality were compared. Multivariate logistic regression analysis was performed with clinically relevant variables to determine whether age had an independent and significant association with the outcome.
Results: A total of 271 files were reviewed, of which 56 belonged to elderly patients (≥ 70 years). The gender ratio was equal in both groups. Elderly patients had a significantly higher comorbidity status, Charlson score and American society of anesthesiologists (ASA) class (all p < 0.001). Upon multivariate analysis, factors associated with more complications were ASA status (95% CI = 1.30-6.25), preoperative perforation (95% CI = 1.94-48.0) and rectal tumors (95% CI = 1.21-5.34). Old age was significantly associated with systemic complications upon univariate analysis (p = 0.05), however, this association vanished upon multivariate analysis (p = 0.36).
Conclusion: Older patients have more co-morbid conditions and higher ASA scores, but increasing age itself is not independently associated with complications after surgery for CRC. Therefore patient selection should focus on the clinical status and ASA class of the patient rather than age.