Background: Prior studies of older cancer patients undergoing large operations have reported similar rates of complications to the general population but higher rates of mortality, suggesting higher rates of failure-to-rescue (FTR) with advanced age. Whether age is a marker for frailty, or an independent predictor of FTR, is not clear. Methods: The ACS-NSQIP database was queried from 2015-19 for patients undergoing surgery for gastrointestinal (GI) malignancy. Patients were divided into age-stratified cohorts: C1 (18–55), C2 (56–65), C3 (66–75), C4 (76–89). Adjusted odds ratios (aOR) were computed to assess the relationship of the FTR rate and age, while controlling for potential confounders. A second analysis was specified with all covariates converted to Z-scores, which generated scaled adjusted odds ratios (saOR) to determine the strongest predictor of FTR. Results: Multivariable analysis suggests that age is an independent predictor of FTR: C2:C1 aOR = 1.87 (p < 0.001); C3:C1 aOR = 3.33 (p < 0.001); C4:C1 aOR = 5.71 (p < 0.001). The scaled analysis demonstrated that age is the strongest predictor of FTR (saOR = 1.92, p < 0.001); a one standard deviation increase in age was associated with a 92% increased odds of FTR. The saOR for frailty (1.18, p < 0.001) and for number of comorbidities (1.10, p = 0.005) also were statistically significant. Conclusions: Chronologic age was independently associated with increased FTR after surgery for GI malignancy and was the strongest predictor of FTR. These results suggest that chronologic age must be carefully considered when evaluating the fitness of a patient for GI cancer surgery.
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