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Cancer Control. 2013 Apr;20(2):144-50.

The impact of age on morbidity and mortality following esophagectomy for esophageal cancer.

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  • 1Department of Surgery of the Division of Surgical Oncology, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tennessee, USA.



In patients with esophageal cancer, treatment decisions often involve a balance between a high-risk procedure and the chance for long-term benefit. The decision can be additionally challenging for elderly patients since some studies have reported an increased incidence of morbidity and mortality in this age group, and data are not clear on the overall benefit of multimodality therapy.


To investigate the management and outcomes associated with esophagectomy in elderly patients with esophageal cancer, we performed a review of the literature as well as an analysis of our own institutional data, with a focus on the impact of age on surgical outcomes. We examined type of surgery, neoadjuvant and adjuvant therapy, postoperative complications, length of hospitalization, and mortality as variables in elderly patients with esophageal cancer.


When assessing the impact of age on the success of esophagectomy, several studies have concluded that advanced age itself is not a predictor of outcomes as much as associated comorbidities are. Our own experience suggests that age is not associated with adverse outcomes when controlling for patient comorbidities. This finding is similar to data reported elsewhere.


When considering treatment for patients of advanced age, the risks of treatment should be compared with the survival benefits of the therapy prescribed, taking into account additional factors such as poor performance status, existing comorbidities, and residual tumor following neoadjuvant therapy. Many reports, as well as our own experience, have concluded that when adjusted for comorbidities, patient age does not significantly affect outcomes.

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