Hypothesis: Laparoscopic cholecystectomy (LC) has known physiological benefits and positive socioeconomic effects over the open procedure. Although recent studies have questioned the technique's efficacy in elderly patients (>65 years), we hypothesize that LC is safe and efficacious in that patient group. Methods: Five thousand eight hundred eighty-four consecutive patients (mean age, 40 years; 26% male) underwent an attempted LC (conversion rate, 5.2%) from 1991 to 2001 at a teaching institution. Of these, 395 patients (6.7%) were older than 65 years. Analysis included patient age, sex, American Society of Anesthesiologists classification, conversion rate, morbidity, mortality, and assessment of results over time. Results: Elderly patients were predominantly male (64%). Septuagenarians had a 40% incidence of complicated gallstone disease, such as acute cholecystitis, choledocholithiasis, or biliary pancreatitis, and octogenarians had a 55% incidence. Overall mortality was 1.4%. The conversion rate was 17% for the first 5 years of the study period and 7% for the second half. The conversion rate was 22% for patients with complicated disease and 2.5% for patients with chronic cholecystitis. Average hospital stay decreased from 10.2 days to 4.6 days during the first and second half of the study period, respectively. Conclusions: The results of LC in patients aged 65 to 69 years are comparable with those previously reported in younger patients. Patients older than 70 years had a 2-fold increase in complicated biliary tract disease and conversion rates, but a low mortality rate (2%) compared with results of other authors (12%), despite an increase in American Society of Anesthesiologists classification. Increased technical experience with LC favorably affected outcomes over time. Early diagnosis and treatment prior to onset of complications are necessary for further improvement in the outcomes of elderly patients undergoing LC.
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