Gastroduodenal ulcer is a very common illness in Japan. As the number of elderly persons in Japan increases the same as in Europe and America, the number of such patients requiring a gastroduodenal emergency operation has also increased. Regarding the complications of peptic ulcer, a perforation remains the most important fatal complication. The aim of this study is to investigate the operative risk factors and the long-term recurrence rates and to define the optimal surgical procedures in emergency situations in elderly patients.
From April 1988 through March 1997, 130 patients over 70 years of age with a perforated gastroduodenal ulcer (a duodenal ulcer perforation in 50 patients and a gastric ulcer perforation in 80 patients) were operated on in an emergency situation in our clinic. We investigated the following items; medical illness, preoperative risk factor, optimal surgical procedure, postoperative organ failure and the cumulative recurrence-free rates after surgical treatment.
A significant correlation with mortality was observed in patients with established comorbidity in the following organs: lung (P = 0.03), heart (P = 0.02), kidney (P = 0.04), and diabetes (P = 0.03). The highest postoperative mortality rate was recorded in patients who underwent a simple closure of a duodenal ulcer perforation (4 patients; 26.7%), while the lowest postoperative mortality rate was recorded in patients who underwent a simple closure and vagotomy of a duodenal ulcer perforation (3 patients; 12.5%). In gastric ulcers, the mortality rate in patients with a gastrectomy was significantly higher than in patients with a simple closure. The practical application of the three risk factors (preoperative shock, delay to surgery over 24 hours, and medical illness) was shown by the progressive rise in the mortality rate with the increasing number of risk factors. Based on the 5 postoperative years after treating a perforated duodenal ulcer, the cumulative recurrence rate after a simple closure (63.6%) was significantly higher than that after a simple closure and vagotomy (38.1%) (n = 0.02) or after gastrectomy (0%) (P < 0.001). At 5 years postoperatively, the cumulative recurrence rate after a simple closure (41.2%) was significantly higher than that after a gastrectomy (15.9%) (P < 0.01).
In conclusion, in an emergency situation, elderly patients are in a highly unfavorable prognostic condition due to their advanced age, and comorbidity, which thus leads to poorer results, not only worldwide, but also in Japan. Based on our findings, in duodenal ulcer cases, a simple closure and vagotomy is recommended because of its low mortality and minimal stress, except for cases with a giant perforation measuring over 20 mm in diameter at the perforation hole or with severe duodenal stenosis. In stomach ulcer cases, a gastrectomy may be recommended because of its low recurrence rate.