The anatomy of the external branch of the superior laryngeal nerve in Koreans

Seong Bae Hwang, Hye Yoon Lee, Woo Young Kim, Sang Uk Woo, Jae Bok Lee, Jeoung Won Bae, Hoon Yub Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Preservation of the external branch of the superior laryngeal nerve (EBSLN) during thyroidectomy is important because its injury may lead to frequent occurrence of vocal fatigue and the inability to perform superenergetic phonation. Most studies on the anatomy of EBSLN have been performed in Western countries and, thus, have some limitations in their application to Koreans. We explored the anatomy of EBSLNs using intraoperative neuromonitoring (IONM) in Korean adults. Methods: Between August 2011 and December 2011, 50 patients underwent thyroidectomy at Korea University, Anam Hospital in Seoul, Korea. IONM was performed with the NIM response 3.0 system. Results: Forty-two total thyroidectomies and eight lobectomies were performed with IONM and 92 EBSLNs were evaluated. Type I EBSLN was observed in 15 of the 92 nerves (16.3%), type IIa EBSLN was noted in 52 (56.5%) and type IIb EBSLN was noted in 25 (27.2%). Patients with types IIa and IIb were at higher risk of injuries and these types were more frequently observed (83.7%) compared with previous Western studies. We found that 35.9% of distal insertion sites of EBSLNs were located within 1 cm of the center of the cricoid cartilage. Conclusion: Surgeons should pay close attention to preserving the EBSLN during thyroidectomy in Korean patients because their EBSLNs are more frequently located beneath the superior thyroid vessels.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13-19
Number of pages7
JournalAsian Journal of Surgery
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2013 Jan
Externally publishedYes


  • intraoperative neuromonitoring
  • superior laryngeal nerve
  • thyroidectomy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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