The following article features coverage from the American Society of Hematology (ASH) 2018 meeting. Click here to read more of Oncology Nurse Advisor‘s conference coverage.

Fewer than 14% of women ages 70 and older undergo postmastectomy breast reconstruction, largely because there is a concern that this older population may be more susceptible to postoperative complications. However, according to study results presented at the 2018 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, the likelihood of such complications in older women is extremely low. 

The study utilized data from the National Surgical Quality Improvement database to identify 42,929 women who underwent breast reconstruction between 2005 and 2016. A total of 2615 of whom were aged 70 or older. Women ages 18 to 69 were classified as young women. The authors compared the 30-day postoperative outcomes of these 2 groups.

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Older women more commonly underwent immediate breast reconstruction (92% vs 88.3%), whereas young women were more likely to undergo delayed breast reconstruction (11.7% vs 8%). Older women did experience higher rates of superficial surgical site infection (2.6% vs 1.8%) and urinary tract infection (0.6% vs 0.3%); but there was no significant difference between older and younger women in the rate of deep superficial surgical site infection, dehiscence, pneumonia, thromboembolism, renal complications, cardiac events, and sepsis. Interestingly, younger women were more likely to experience flap failure (2.1% vs 0.4%) and bleeding events requiring transfusion (1.8% vs 1%). 

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Both groups had similar rates of returning to the operating room within 30 days postreconstruction due to complications. Furthermore, the incidence of death at 30-day postreconstruction was extremely rare for both young and older women. Based on these findings the authors conclude that, “Breast reconstruction can be safely offered to older women undergoing breast cancer treatment.”


Angarita FA, McCready DR, Cil T. Is breast reconstruction safe in women over 70? An analysis of the national surgical quality improvement program (NSQIP) database. Poster presentation at: 2018 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium; December 4-8, 2018; San Antonio, TX. Abstract P5-16-01.