Extralaryngeal division of the recurrent laryngeal nerve: A new description for the inferior laryngeal nerve

Yalcin B., Tunali S., Ozan H.

Surgical and Radiologic Anatomy, vol.30, no.3, pp.215-220, 2008 (SCI-Expanded) identifier identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 30 Issue: 3
  • Publication Date: 2008
  • Doi Number: 10.1007/s00276-008-0318-5
  • Journal Name: Surgical and Radiologic Anatomy
  • Journal Indexes: Science Citation Index Expanded (SCI-EXPANDED), Scopus
  • Page Numbers: pp.215-220
  • Keywords: recurrent laryngeal nerve, inferior laryngeal nerve, laryngeal branch, extralaryngeal branch, anatomy, THYROID-SURGERY, ANATOMY
  • Lokman Hekim University Affiliated: No


Extralaryngeal division of the recurrent laryngeal nerve was contradictory in the literature. We aimed to investigate extralaryngeal division of the nerve, and also propose a new description for the inferior laryngeal nerve. Sixty specimens (120 sides) were examined for this project, including 41 men and 19 women cadavers between the ages of 40 and 89 years at death. In one right side, terminal segment of the nerve gave off many small branches surrounding the inferior thyroid artery then reaching the larynx, trachea, thyroid gland and esophagus. In eight sides, terminal segment of the nerve had no extralaryngeal division and entered the larynx as a single trunk. In 110 sides, the nerve had extralaryngeal division. One hundred and three nerves had two laryngeal and one to three extralaryngeal branches. Two types were described in this group. In type I (66 nerves), both branches arose from the same level of nerve. Type I had two subtypes: type Ia, the origin of the branches was just below the inferior constrictor muscle; type Ib, the origin of the branches was 15-35 mm below the muscle. In type II (37 nerves), the laryngeal branches arose just 3-5 mm above the extralaryngeal branches. We observed that the laryngeal and extralaryngeal branches arose generally from the same point of the recurrent laryngeal nerve. The inferior laryngeal nerve is thus very short, or even nonexistent. Therefore, we suggest that if the term "superior laryngeal nerve" is a given, standard, and accepted term, then the term "inferior laryngeal nerve" should also be accepted instead of the term "recurrent laryngeal nerve." © Springer-Verlag 2008.