Background. Prior research suggests that older patients are less likely to undergo resection of early-stage nonsmall- cell lung carcinomas (NSCLCs). We surveyed surgeons to understand how their recommendations for lobectomy were influenced by age, the presence and severity of smoking-related lung disease, or by characteristics of the surgeons and their practices. Methods. We surveyed surgeons caring for NSCLC patients regarding whether they would recommend lobectomy for hypothetical patients with early-stage NSCLC who varied by age (55 vs. 80 years) and comorbid illness (none, moderate, severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease [COPD]). Ordinal logistic regression was used to identify the importance of patient, surgeon, and practice characteristics on surgery recommendations. Results. Surgeons recommended lobectomy for nearly all patients who were 55 years old with no comorbidity (adjusted proportion 98.6%), 55 years old with moderate COPD (adjusted proportion 97.8%), or 80 years old with no comorbidity (adjusted proportion 98.1%). Fewer recommended lobectomy for 80-year-old patients with moderate COPD (adjusted proportion 82.3%), and far fewer recommended lobectomy for severe COPD, irrespective of age (adjusted rate 18.7% for the 55-year-old patient and 6.1% for the 80-year-old patient) (P<0.002). Surgeons who enroll patients onto clinical trials (P = 0.03) were more likely than others to recommend lobectomy, but no other surgeon characteristic predicted recommendations. Conclusions. Lower rates of lobectomy among older patients do not seem to be explained by age-related biases among surgeons for otherwise healthy patients.
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