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Ann Otol Rhinol Laryngol. 2001 Jun;110(6):532-42.

Laryngeal reinnervation with the hypoglossal nerve. I. Physiology, histochemistry, electromyography, and retrograde labeling in a canine model.

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  • 1Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, Washington University School of Medicine, St Louis, Missouri 63110, USA.


This study was performed to determine whether the hypoglossal nerve (cranial nerve XI [XII]) would serve as a useful donor for laryngeal reinnervation by anastomosis to the recurrent laryngeal nerve (RLN). Twenty hemilarynges in 10 dogs were studied prospectively after XII-RLN anastomosis (group A; n = 5), split XII-RLN anastomosis (group B; n = 3), XII-RLN anastomosis with a 2-cm interposition graft (group C; n = 2), no treatment (group D; n = 5), RLN section (group E; n = 2), or ansa cervicalis-RLN anastomosis (group F; n = 3). Spontaneous activity was observed monthly by infraglottic examination through permanent tracheostomies and was recorded by electromyography. Laryngeal adductory pressure and induced phonation were obtained by stimulating the RLN while passing a pressure transducer balloon or humidified air through the glottis. At sacrifice, the laryngeal muscles were stained for adenosine triphosphatase to determine the ratio of type I to type II fibers. Retrograde labeling of the brain stem was performed with horseradish peroxidase. Infraglottic examination at 6 months showed a full range of adductory motion in groups A and B during the swallow reflex, comparable with that in group D. Groups C and F showed good bulk and tone, but little spontaneous motion. Group E remained paralyzed. Stimulation of the transferred nerves caused more activity in groups A and B than in the other groups; groups C and F partially adducted at high levels. The laryngeal adductory pressure responses of groups A and B were similar to those of group D. The XII-reinnervated larynges were capable of producing normal induced phonation. Retrograde labeling of the RLN showed that the reinnervating axons originated only in the hypoglossal nucleus. Electromyography of the reinnervated adductor muscles confirmed spontaneous activity in the dogs (awake). Histochemical analysis confirmed slow-to-fast transformation of both the posterior and lateral cricoarytenoid muscles, indicating that significant reinnervation occurred. We conclude that the hypoglossal nerve functions well as a donor for adductory reinnervation of the larynx.

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