In recent decades liver resection has become a safe procedure; however, the outcome of hepatectomies in aged cirrhotic patients is often uncertain. To elucidate early and long-term outcomes of hepatectomy for HCC in the elderly, we studied 241 cirrhotic patients who underwent liver resection for HCC between 1985 and 2003. According to their age at the time of surgery, patients were divided into two groups: aged > 70 years (64 patients) and aged ≤ 70 years (177 patients). Operative mortality was 3.1% in the elderly and 9.6% in the younger group (p = 0.113). Postoperative morbidity and liver failure rates were higher in the younger group (42.4% versus 23.4%, p = 0.0073; 12.9% versus l.6%, p = 0.0065). Five-year survival rates are 48.6% in the elderly group and 32.3% in the younger group (p = 0.081). Considering only radical resections in Child-Pugh A patients, survival remains similar in the two groups (p = 0.072). Disease-free survival is not different in the two groups. A survival analysis performed according to the tumor diameter shows a better survival for elderly Child-Pugh A patients with HCC larger than 5 cm radically resected (50.8% versus 16.1% 5-year survival, p = 0.034). In univariate analysis, tumor size is not a prognostic factor in the elderly, whereas younger patients with large tumors have a worse outcome. Age by itself is not a contraindication for surgery, and selected cirrhotic patients with HCC who are 70 years of age or older could benefit from resection, even in the presence of large tumors. Long-term results of liver resections for HCC in the elderly may be even better than in younger patients.
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