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Ann Otol Rhinol Laryngol. 2003 May;112(5):434-8.

Surgical anatomy of the recurrent laryngeal nerve: implications for laryngeal reinnervation.

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Division of Head and Neck Surgery, Department of Surgery, University of California-Los Angeles School of Medicine, Los Angeles, California 90095, USA.


Functional laryngeal reinnervation depends upon the precise reinnervation of the laryngeal abductor and adductor muscle groups. While simple end-to-end anastomosis of the recurrent laryngeal nerve (RLN) main trunk results in synkinesis, functional reinnervation can be achieved by selective anastomosis of the abductor and adductor RLN divisions. Few previous studies have examined the intralaryngeal anatomy of the RLN to ascertain the characteristics that may lend themselves to laryngeal reinnervation. Ten human larynges without known laryngeal disorders were obtained from human cadavers for RLN microdissection. The bilateral intralaryngeal RLN branching patterns were determined, and the diameters and lengths of the abductor and adductor divisions were measured. The mean diameters of the abductor and adductor divisions were 0.8 and 0.7 mm, while their mean lengths were 5.7 and 6.1 mm, respectively. The abductor division usually consisted of one branch to the posterior cricoarytenoid muscle; however, in cases in which multiple branches were seen, at least one dominant branch could usually be identified. We conclude that the abductor and adductor divisions of the human RLN can be readily identified by an extralaryngeal approach. Several key landmarks aid in the identification of the branches to individual muscles. These data also indicate the feasibility of selective laryngeal reinnervation in patients who might be candidates for laryngeal transplantation after total laryngectomy.

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