A recent study performed by the University of Chicago indicates that lung surgery for elderly mesothelioma patients may not be any more risky than surgery for younger patient, despite previous assumptions and other health conditions.
The study was performed on 117 mesothelioma patients who went through extended pleurectomy and decortication through 2008-2013. This type of surgery is different than other forms of surgery in that it includes removing entire pleural membrane, as well as either part of or the entire diaphragm, and the heart’s linings. The entire lung, however, is not removed, but the surgery helps to stop mesothelioma from resurfacing.
The surgery patients were divided into groups by age: those 70 years of age and older and those under the age of 70. A total of 54 patients were over the age 70, and many of them had additional health complications, including high blood pressure and heart issues. Although people over the age of 70 having additional health problems is not surprising, the fact that their survival rate after surgery was not any worse that the other patients was something new to physicians.
According to the University of Chicago’s Trevor Williams, MD, MPH, there were actually more complications in the younger patients than the older patients.
“Major complications occurred in 3 patients in the older group and 7 patients of the younger group. There were 2 deaths in each group after surgery.”
In addition, the older patients who survived the surgery actually lived longer than the younger patients. The average lifespan after surgery for the older patients was 15.6 months, compared to 14 months for the younger patients.
As a result, physicians and scientists state that the age of the patient doesn’t necessarily mean that surgery risks are higher when compared to younger patients, which goes against the assumption that the older you are, the more chances increase of a bad outcome. In 2012, the New York Times published an article in which Dr. Emily Finlayson of the University of California, San Francisco, indicated that a study she performed shows that surgery poses a much higher risk for elderly patients.
“Something about undergoing anesthesia, the surgery’s physiological assault on the body, impacts older people much more than we think.”
However, it’s important to note that Dr. Finalyson’s study included elderly adults who live in nursing homes or similar institutions. Furthermore, the type of surgery performed during this particular study was abdominal, gallbladder, colon, and appendix surgery. The study didn’t include any elderly patients who underwent lung surgery.
Surgery still remains the one of the best treatment options for people with mesothelioma, and since many mesothelioma patients are elderly, the newest findings are promising for a successful treatment plan and an extended survival rate.
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