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A detailed study of the relationship between the external laryngeal nerve and superior thyroid artery, including its glandular branches


Correspondence to: Bulent Yalcin, MD, GÒlhane Askeri Tip Akademisi (GATA), Anatomi Anabilim Dali, 06018 EtlikߚAnkara, Turkey. E-mail: or


The external layrngeal nerve (ELN) may be at risk during thyroidectomy. Because the relationship between the ELN and superior thyroid artery (STA) can be variable, we aimed to investigate their relationship in detail. In human cadavers, 81 ELN and STA and their branches were carefully dissected. The position of the nerve was classified as medial (Group I, on 76.5% sides), lateral (Group II, on 20.9% sides), or posterior (Group III, on 2.4% sides) to the origin of the STA. In Group Ia, the nerve did not cross the artery while it did cross the artery in Group Ib. In Group II, the nerve was located lateral to the origin of the artery and crossed it. In Group III, the nerve coursed downward posterior to the artery. In conclusion, the topography of the ELN showed much more variability in its relationship to the STA than is described in the literature. Such variations should be kept in mind during surgery of the anterior neck. It is our hope that such data will decrease surgical morbidity following surgery of the anterior neck. Clin. Anat. 26:814–822, 2013. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.