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Our aim was to compare the outcome of esophageal resection for carcinoma in elderly patients (aged over 70 and over 80 years) with that of younger patients managed within a single specialist thoracic surgery unit.

Patients and methods:

Between January 1987 and November 1997, 523 patients underwent esophagectomy for carcinoma in the Nottingham City Hospital Thoracic Surgery Unit. The patients were divided into 3 groups by age: group I, under 70 years (n = 337); group II, 70 to 79 years (n = 150), and group III, 80 to 86 years (n = 36). These groups were compared with regard to preoperative medical status, operability and resectability, complications, operative mortality, and long-term survival.


Patients in groups II (6.0%) and III (2.8%) had fewer preexisting respiratory problems than patients in group I (12.5%), and the patients in group III had fewer preexisting cardiovascular problems (16.7%) than patients in groups I (25.2%) and II (32.7%). Although patients in group III were generally less likely to have operable lesions (64.3%), no significant differences in resectability rate were detected among the 3 groups (80.8%, 77.7%, and 80%). Elderly patients (groups II and III) had a higher incidence of overall (34% and 36.1%), respiratory (24.7% and 19.4%), and cardiovascular (7.3% and 11.1%) complications than those aged under 70 years (24.6%, 16.3%, and 2.1%, respectively). However, operative mortality (4.7%, 6.7%, and 5.6%) and 5-year survivals inclusive of operative mortality (25.1%, 21.2%, and 19.8%) were similar among the 3 groups.


Accumulated experience in all aspects of perioperative management may account for a low hospital mortality in elderly patients despite a greater operative risk. The survival benefit is similar to that in the younger age groups, enforcing the view that esophagectomy within specialist thoracic units can be safely offered (in appropriately selected patients) with acceptable long-term survival in all age groups.

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