A group of 1127 patients who underwent sclerotherapy for esophageal varices were compared for outcome in terms of age: over and ander age 70 years. Esophageal varices were completely eradicated in 81 of 110 patients >70 years (73.6%) and in 791 of 1017 patients <70 years (77.8%). Gastrointestinal bleeding after sclerotherapy occurred in 9 patients >70 years (8.2%) and in 84 of those <70 years (8.3%). Complications occurred in 16 patients >70 years (14.5%) and in 141 <70 years (13.9%). Liver failure and hepatoma accounted for more than 80% of the causes of death in both groups (80.3% versus 83.8%). The 5-year cumulative survival rates in patients with bleeding esophageal varices (bleeders) without hepatoma were 21.8% in those >70 years and 58.7% in those <70 years (p<0.01), the relative survivals being 25.3% versus 66.6%. Patients without hepatoma and treated by prophylactic sclerotherapy accounted for 66.2% of patients >70 years and 61.7% of those <70 years, the relative survivals being 75.9% versus 71.9%. As analyzed by the Cox proportional-hazards model, age >70 years was a prognostic factor in the bleeders (p<0.01) but not in the nonbleeders. We recommend that elderly patients with esophageal varices be given prophylactic sclerotherapy, as the outcome for these patients is poor once bleeding has occurred.
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