Background: This study aimed to identify the anterior and posterior extralaryngeal branches (AELB, PELB) of the recurrent laryngeal nerve (RLN), measure these branches when present, and determine relationships between gender, sidedness and neck length.
Materials and methods: Dissection was completed to level of the thyroid on 45 cadavers. The course of the RLN was then traced superiorly from its entry into the neck. Careful reflection of the thyroid and dissection of the lateral thyroid ligament permitted visualisation of the full course of the nerve. If extralaryngeal branching (ELB) was present, measurements were taken from the point of bifurcation of the RLN to the point of laryngeal entry through the cricothyroid membrane. Neck measurements, from the spinous process of C7 to the superior nuchal line, were taken. Gender of the specimen was noted. Data was analysed in SPSS.
Results: Extralaryngeal branching was found in 77.78% of our sample, 77.14% on the left and 54.29% on the right. A significant difference was found between AELB length on the left and right, indicating that the left branch will be longer than the right when present. A significant difference in neck length between those with and without ELB was also found, indicating that people with longer necks more often display ELB. Neither neck length and AELB length, nor gender and AELB length were strongly correlated in this sample.
Conclusions: Extralaryngeal branching can occur in all populations, but there are definite trends in its incidence and length. Surgeons should be aware of these trends before operating on patients.
anterior extralaryngeal branch, posterior extralaryngeal branch, recurrent laryngeal nerve
Hessel K, Wessel E, Olinger A, Wright B. Variability in the Anterior Extralaryngeal Branch of the Recurrent Laryngeal Nerve: Clinical Implications. Folia Morphologica. 2017; 76(1). doi: 10.5603/FM.a2016.0040.