Cholecystectomy for the elderly: no hesitation for otherwise healthy patients

Liv Bjerre Juul Nielsen, Kirstine Moll Harboe, Linda Bardram
Surgical Endoscopy 2014, 28 (1): 171-7

BACKGROUND: The number of Danish inhabitants older than 65 years is increasing, and cholecystectomy is one of the most common surgical procedures performed for this age group. This study aimed to analyze the role of age as an independent predictor of outcome for elderly cholecystectomy patients.

METHODS: Data from the Danish Cholecystectomy Database (2006-2010) were used. The outcomes of interest were conversion rate for laparoscopic cholecystectomy, outpatient rate, postoperative hospital length of stay, readmission rate, and frequency of additional procedures and death within 30 days postoperatively.

RESULTS: In this study, 697 patients 80 years of age or older and 4,915 patients ages 65-70 years were compared with 8,805 patients ages 50-64 years. Significantly more patients age 80 years or older underwent surgery for acute cholecystitis, and the conversion rate from laparoscopic to open surgery was significantly higher in the oldest group. The older patients had longer postoperative hospital stays, but nearly 30 % of the patients age 80 years or older were admitted for only 0-1 day and not readmitted, and nearly half of the patients were admitted for only 0-3 days without readmission. Also, the mortality rate and the number of patients who underwent additional procedures within 30 days were higher in the oldest group (6 vs 0.1 and 28 vs 15 %, respectively). A subanalysis of the patients age 80 years or older classified as American Society of Anesthesiology 1 and 2 without acute cholecystitis showed that 44 % left the hospital within 1 day and 63 % within 3 days without readmission and that the 30-day mortality rate was only 2 %.

CONCLUSIONS: Age is an independent predictor for worse outcome after cholecystectomy. However, among otherwise healthy patients age 80 years or older who underwent surgery before acute inflammatory complications occurred, 63 % had a fast and uncomplicated course. Thus, it seems fair to recommend elective laparoscopic cholecystectomy when repeated gallstone symptoms have occurred also for the older patient, particularly before the patient experiences acute cholecystitis.

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