Source 1Department of Medical and Surgical Sciences, Surgical Clinic, Brescia University.
OBJECTIVE Hepatocellular carcinoma is often diagnosed in elderly people.
METHODS: One hundred and seventy-five patients older than 70 years were operated on for hepatocellular carcinoma (Group 1). The results were compared with 276 resected patients younger than 70 (Group 2) and to 108 aged patients with chronic liver disease without hepatocellular carcinoma (Group 3).
RESULTS: Hepatocellular carcinoma in the elderly is more frequently associated with hepatitis C virus, less frequently capsulated and less frequently diagnosed by screening programs than in young patients. After resection, no difference was noted in post-operative complications and in mortality rates (3.2%); major hepatic resection in cirrhosis carried a high risk of death (22%). Five years survival was 42%, comparable with the young surgical patients but significantly lower than the medical patients in Group 3. Recurrence of hepatocellular carcinoma was the main reason of death, but it was suitable for a radical treatment in 37.6% of cases, including surgery, with a mean survival of 31 months.
CONCLUSIONS: Liver resection is a valid option for the treatment of hepatocellular carcinoma in the elderly; major resections in cirrhotic old patients must be reserved for selected cases. Recurrence may be suitable of a radical approach, including surgery.