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Superior laryngeal nerve in thyroid surgery: anatomical identification and monitoring

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Abstract

The aim of this study was to validate a procedure to identify and preserve the external branch of the superior laryngeal nerve (EBSLN) during thyroid surgery. The present study also aimed to analyze the EBSLN and the vagus nerve activities after stimulation and demonstrate an operative association between all the laryngeal muscles. Dissection of the cervical region was performed bilaterally in four adult cadavers. In a second step, 144 patients undergoing total thyroidectomy were included. Intraoperative stimulations of the cervical vagus nerve and the EBSLN in the sternothyroid–laryngeal triangle were performed bilaterally. Potentials in the thyroarytenoid muscle and the cricothyroid muscle were registered on each side using the NIM3 Medtronic System. EBSLN was identified according to Cernea’s classification as type 1 in 62.5%, type 2a in 25%, and type 2b in 12.5% of cadaver’s dissection. According to Friedman’s classification, 50% of EBSLN were classified type 1, 25% type 2 and 25% type 3. The EBSLN was identified in 267 cases out of 288 peroperative dissections (92.7%). Direct stimulation (1 mA) of this branch led to a recordable contraction of the cricothyroid muscle with a mean latency of 1.42 ± 0.66 ms on the right side and 1.43 ± 0.61 ms on the left side. The stimulation of the EBSLN also led to a recordable contraction of the thyroarytenoid muscle in 211 cases (73.3%) with the same latencies. A contraction of the cricothyroid muscle was also recorded when the vagus nerve was stimulated in 219 cases (76.0%). The sole visual identification of the EBSLN during thyroid surgery is not a reliable method to prevent nerve injury. Direct stimulation of the EBSLN in the sternothyroid–laryngeal triangle is a simple and rapid procedure to detect and preserve the nerve during surgery. Functional associations between vagus nerve and EBSLN in laryngeal muscles’ contractions were also identified.

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Correspondence to M. Gavid.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Gavid, M., Dubois, M.D., Larivé, E. et al. Superior laryngeal nerve in thyroid surgery: anatomical identification and monitoring. Eur Arch Otorhinolaryngol 274, 3519–3526 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00405-017-4666-9

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00405-017-4666-9

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