Recurrent laryngeal nerve (RLN) palsy is the most common and serious complication after thyroid surgery. Visual identification of the RLN during thyroid surgery has been shown to be associated with lower rates of palsy, and although it has been recommended as the gold standard for RLN treatment, it does not guarantee success against postoperative vocal cord paralysis. Anatomical variations of the RLN, such as extra-laryngeal branches, distorted RLN, intertwining between branches of the RLN and inferior thyroid artery, and non-recurrent laryngeal nerve, can be a potential cause of nerve injury due to visual misidentification. Therefore, intraoperative verification of functional and anatomical RLN integrity is a prerequisite for a safe thyroid operation. In this article, we review the literature and demonstrate how to identify and handle the anatomical variations of the RLN with the application of intraoperative neuromonitoring in the form of high resolution photography, which can be informative for thyroid surgeons. Anatomical variations of the RLN cannot be predicted preoperatively and might be associated with higher rates of RLN injury. The RLN injury caused by visual misidentification can be rare if the nerve is definitely identified early with intraoperative neuromonitoring. © 2010 Elsevier. All rights reserved.
Chiang, F. Y., Lu, I. C., Chen, H. C., Chen, H. Y., Tsai, C. J., Hsiao, P. J., … Wu, C. W. (2010, November). Anatomical variations of recurrent laryngeal nerve during thyroid surgery: How to identify and handle the variations with intraoperative neuromonitoring. Kaohsiung Journal of Medical Sciences. https://doi.org/10.1016/S1607-551X(10)70089-9