Background: Octogenarians often present with potentially resectable bronchogenic carcinoma. Older reports noting prohibitive mortality and recent surveys documenting continued substantial risk raise concerns about the applicability of operation in this age group.
Methods: We reviewed the short-term and long-term results of pulmonary resection for intended cure of lung cancer in patients 80 years and older operated on from 1980 through 1995. Our surgical philosophy favored lobectomy over lesser resection and generally avoided pneumonectomy in the elderly.
Results: Fifty-four octogenarians underwent resection: 43 lobectomies, 2 extended lobectomies, 2 bilobectomies, 3 segmentectomies, 3 wedge excisions, and 1 pneumonectomy. There were two perioperative deaths (3.7%). The overall nonfatal complication rate was 42%, with a major complication rate of 11%. Postoperative stay decreased from 8.1 days overall to 6.3 days in the last 3 years. Only 3 patients required temporary convalescent care after discharge. Actuarial survival at 1,3, and 5 years was 86%, 62%, and 43%, respectively, for all discharged patients (n = 52) and 97%, 78%, and 57% for stage I cases (n = 39). Patients with tumors beyond stage I fared poorly.
Conclusions: Advanced age per se in neither a contraindication to curative resection nor a routine indication for nonanatomic operations in healthy octogenarians with stage I lung cancer. With proper selection, acute risk should be low. Pneumonectomy, extended resection, and operation for stage II or III disease should be considered only in exceptional cases.