Original Article

Surgical Treatment of Lung Cancer in Octogenarians

Authors: Sibu P. Saha, MD, MBA, Matthew Bender, MS, Victor A. Ferraris, MD, PhD, Daniel L. Davenport, PhD


Background: As the population ages, octogenarians are becoming the fastest growing patient demographic for non–small-cell lung cancer. We examined lobectomies and 30-day outcomes in this group compared with younger patients to gain insight into the optimal treatment for this challenging group.

Methods: We analyzed data from the American College of Surgeons National Quality Improvement Program for patients with lung cancer undergoing lobectomy during calendar years 2005–2010. We compared clinical risk factors, intraoperative factors, and 30-day operative mortality and major morbidity in octogenarians versus younger patients undergoing either open traditional thoracotomy (OPEN) or video-assisted (VATS) pulmonary lobar resection.

Results: Of 2171 patients who had lobar resections for lung cancer, 245 (11%) were octogenarians. Six hundred eight lobectomies (28.0%) were VATS procedures and 1563 (72.0%) were OPEN procedures. The VATS rate increased as patient age increased (34% VATS for octogenarians vs 27% for patients younger than 80 years; P = 0.01). Thoracic surgeons performed VATS with greater frequency compared with general surgeons, especially in octogenarians (41% VATS for thoracic surgeons vs 29% for general surgeons; P< 0.001). Univariate analysis suggests significantly increased major morbidity (pulmonary, renal, and sepsis), but not operative mortality in octogenarians; however, multivariate predictors of major morbidity include OPEN procedures, preoperative decreased functional status, history of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, preoperative sepsis, prior radiation, diabetes, and dyspnea on exertion (all P < 0.05), but they do not include advanced age.

Conclusions: Comorbidities predict most increased morbidity in octogenarians, and advanced age per se is not an important multivariate predictor of postoperative morbidity or mortality. The frequency of VATS lobectomy increased with increasing patient age, and VATS predisposes to decreased morbidity in octogenarians.

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