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Surgical management of gallbladder disease in the very elderly: are we operating them at the right time?

Lupinacci, Renato M.; Nadal, Luis R.; Rego, Ronaldo E.; Dias, André R.; Marcari, Rafael S.; Lupinacci, Renato A.; Farah, José F.M.

European Journal of Gastroenterology & Hepatology: March 2013 - Volume 25 - Issue 3 - p 380–384
doi: 10.1097/MEG.0b013e32835b7124
Original Articles: Biliary Disorders

Background As life expectancy rises worldwide and the prevalence of gallstones increases with age, the number of very elderly patients requiring treatment for gallstone diseases is increasing. The aim of this study was to compare the results of cholecystectomy in patients 80 years or older according to different clinical presentations.

Methods This is a retrospective study of 81 patients 80 years or older. Indications for surgery were stratified into three groups: outpatients (symptomatic chronic cholecystitis), inpatients (complicated gallstone diseases), and urgent patients (acute cholecystitis). Data analysis included age, sex, the American Society of Anesthesiologists score, indication for surgery, length of hospital stay, morbidity, and mortality.

Results The mean age of the patients was 83.9 (range 80–94 years); there were 34 (42%) men. Thirty patients were operated on for acute cholecystitis. Patients in the urgency group significantly required the ICU more often, required a longer hospital stay, and had more complications, with 32% mortality. No differences were found between inpatients and outpatients, with both groups presenting low morbidity, no mortality, and the same postoperative length of stay.

Conclusion More than 80% of the patients were operated on because of complicated gallstone disease. Although the outcomes of patients undergoing semielective cholecystectomy were similar to those of patients treated as outpatients, patients operated with acute cholecystitis presented extremely high morbidity and mortality rates. Thus, we can only recommend that early elective cholecystectomy be performed in elderly patients as soon as they are found to have symptomatic gallstones. Also, further trials are required to elucidate the optimal management of acute cholecystitis in elderly patients.

Department of General Surgery, São Paulo Estate Employees Hospital, São Paulo, Brazil

Correspondence to Renato M. Lupinacci, MD, Department of General Surgery, São Paulo Estate Employees Hospital, Av Ibirapuera 981, 04029000 São Paulo, Brazil Tel: +55 11 7622 9515; fax: +55 11 3255 2800; e-mail: rmlupinacci@gmail.com

Received August 1, 2012

Accepted October 12, 2012

© 2013 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.