Intended for healthcare professionals

Papers And Short Reports

Resection for colorectal cancer in the very old: are the risks too high?

Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1988; 296 doi: (Published 13 February 1988) Cite this as: Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1988;296:459
  1. A A M Lewis,
  2. G A Khoury


    Altogether 277 consecutive patients aged 70 or more who were admitted for resection of colorectal cancer between 1975 and 1985 were studied. The postoperative complications and mortality in the 175 patients aged 70-79 were compared with those in the 102 patients aged 80 or more. The overall mortality was 11%. Mortality was significantly higher after resection in the older age group even when deaths from widespread malignancy were excluded from the analysis. After curative resection mortality was 2% (2/120) in the younger group and 7% (4/60) in the older group, but after palliative resection of tumours with local or distant spread mortality was significantly higher, at 21% (9/44) and 38% (12/32), respectively. An equal but high proportion of patients in both age groups suffered major complications, but complications caused significantly more deaths in the older group. The length of stay in hospital was not significantly different between the age groups.

    Patients should not be denied resection of a colorectal cancer because of age alone, especially if a curative operation is possible. The increased risk of death from major complications, particularly after palliative resection, should, however, be taken into account when an operation on patients over 80 is being considered.