UBC Faculty Research and Publications

A systematic approach to the recurrent laryngeal nerve dissection at the cricothyroid junction Butskiy, Oleksandr; Chang, Brent A; Luu, Kimberly; McKenzie, Robert M; Anderson, Donald W


Background: To describe and evaluate a four step systematic approach to dissecting the recurrent laryngeal nerve (RLN) starting at the cricothyroid junction during thyroid surgery (subsequently referred to as the retrograde medial approach). Methods: All thyroidectomies completed by the senior author between August 2014 and January 2016 were retrospectively reviewed. Patients were excluded if concurrent lateral or central neck dissection was performed. A follow up period of 1 year was included. Results: Surgical photographs and illustrations demonstrate the four steps in the retrograde medial approach to dissection of the RLN in thyroid surgery. Three hundred forty-two consecutive thyroid surgeries were performed in 17 months, including 213 hemithyroidectomies, 91 total thyroidectomies, and 38 completion thyroidectomies. The rate of temporary and permanent hypocalcemia was 13% (95% confidence interval [CI]: 8–20%) and 3% (95% CI: 1–8%) respectively. The rate of temporary and permanent vocal cord palsy was 9% (95% CI: 6–12%) and 0.3% (95%CI: 0.01–2%) respectively. The median surgical times for hemithyroidectomy, total thyroidectomy, and completion thyroidectomy were 39 min (Interquartile range [IQR]: 33–47 min), 48 min (IQR: 40–60 min), and 40 min (IQR: 35–51 min) respectively. 1% of cases required conversion to an alternative surgical approach. Conclusion: In a tertiary endocrine head and neck practice, the routine use of the retrograde medial approach to RLN dissection is safe and results in a short operative time, and a low conversion rate to other RLN dissection approaches.

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