Cureus. 2021 Oct 27;13(10):e19074. doi: 10.7759/cureus.19074. eCollection 2021 Oct.
Background Prophylactic cholecystectomy following endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography with sphincterotomy (ERCP-S) remains the gold standard management of choledocholithiasis. Some clinicians propose ERCP-S alone as the definitive management in the elderly, given perioperative complication risks. This retrospective cohort study aimed to assess the long-term efficacy and safety of non-operative management of choledocholithiasis in adults aged ≥70. Methodology A total of 252 patients aged ≥70 underwent ERCP from 2004 to 2014 at a single institution. The rates of cholecystectomy, ERCP, complications, and mortality were gathered. Data were linked to a provincial health database to capture follow-up visits to alternate hospitals. Predictors of operation, recurrence, and mortality were analyzed using multivariable regression. Results Following ERCP, of the 252 patients, 33 (13.1%) underwent prophylactic cholecystectomy within three months, while 219 (86.9%) were initially managed conservatively. Of the 219 patients, 147 (67.1%) experienced no further choledocholithiasis after conservative management, while 23 (10.5%) patients underwent cholecystectomy. The mean follow-up was 2.9 years. Delayed operative patients were younger (mean age: 77.56 vs. 82.90; p < 0.001) and had lower Charlson Comorbidity Index (CCI) (1.04 vs. 1.84; p = 0.030). When adjusted for age, CCI score, and sex, cholecystectomy was associated with increased survival, with an odds ratio of 0.48 (95% confidence interval = 0.26-0.90; p = 0.021). Perioperative complications occurred in 7/56 (12.5%) patients. Conclusions Recurrent choledocholithiasis is common in elderly patients. Despite recurrent symptoms, these patients are unlikely to undergo cholecystectomy. Surgeons operate on patients with greater life expectancy and fewer comorbidities with high success despite advanced patient age. Future prospective studies should examine objective criteria for prophylactic cholecystectomy in this population, given purported safety and benefits.