Preservation of the recurrent laryngeal nerves in thyroid and parathyroid reoperations

Jeffrey F. Moley, Terry C. Lairmore, Gerard M. Doherty, L. Michael Brunt, Mary K. DeBenedetti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

94 Scopus citations


Background. The recurrent laryngeal nerve (RLN) is vulnerable to injury in thyroid and parathyroid reoperations because of the presence of scar tissue and displacement of the nerve from its normal position. Methods. Since 1993, we have performed 132 reoperations for recurrence of thyroid or parathyroid carcinoma (102 cases), persistent hyperparathyroidism (21 cases), and recurrent goiter (9 cases). One or both RLNs were identified in all cases (208 nerves). Exposure of the nerve was accomplished by a lateral approach (159 nerves), a low anterior approach (41 nerves), or the identification of the nerve between the larynx and the upper pole of the thyroid, in parathyroid reoperations (8 nerves). Dissection was then done while the nerve was kept in view at all times. Results. Preoperatively, unilateral vocal cord paralysis was noted in 6 patients. Resection of a functioning RLN encased with a tumor was intentionally carried out in 5 patients. The RLNs were identified and preserved in all other cases. Among these 121 patients, transient hoarseness lasting up to a month occurred in 12 patients. Conclusions. Careful identification and exposure of the RLN through a previously undissected area can be done safely in thyroid and parathyroid reoperations and resulted in no permanent recurrent nerve injuries in our experience.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)673-679
Number of pages7
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1999


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