Open colorectal surgery in elderly patients is associated with increased morbidity and mortality rates compared with those in younger age groups. It also requires more intensive postoperative support, longer hospitalization, and in many cases leads to prolonged rehabilitation or institutionalization. Because of its less invasive nature, laparoscopically assisted colorectal surgery may lead to a reduced period of convalescence. However, the safety of advanced laparoscopic surgical techniques in the elderly has not been established, so this prospective comparative study was undertaken.
All patients aged 80 years or more who were undergoing an elective laparoscopic or open colorectal procedure between 1 January 1992 and 30 June 1997 were assessed prospectively. Patients having simple stoma formation were excluded. Perioperative care, operative results and subsequent function were analysed.
There were 42 patients in the laparoscopic group and 35 in the open group, with a median age of 84 years in each group. Five patients undergoing laparoscopic surgery required conversion to an open procedure. No complications related to laparoscopy occurred. Three patients died after operation in the laparoscopic group and four in the open group, with morbidity in seven and 15 patients respectively. Median hospital stay was 9 (range 4–21) days for patients having the laparoscopic operation, and 17 (range 7–28) days in the open cases. At 4 weeks after operation 30 of the 35 independent patients surviving the operation in the laparoscopic group and 16 of 28 in the open group were back to preoperative activity levels.
In this series laparoscopically assisted colorectal surgery was safe and was associated with a low incidence of complications, short hospitalization and a rapid return to preoperative activity levels when compared with open colorectal resections in this age group. © 2000 British Journal of Surgery Society Ltd