The Anatomical Relationship of Inferior Thyroid Artery and Recurrent Laryngeal Nerve: A Review of the Literature and Its Clinical Importance

George Noussios, Iosif Chatzis, Sergios Konstantinidis, Eva Filo, Antigone Spyrou, George Karavasilis, Anastasios Katsourakis


Background: Thyroidectomy is a quite common daily operation in general surgery. However, the anatomical structures of the region, mainly the relationship of recurrent laryngeal nerve (RLN) and inferior thyroid artery (ITA) makes the procedure challenging. The current review of the literature aims to report the anatomical variations of this relationship.

Methods: The preferred reporting items for systemic reviews and meta-analyses (PRISMA) guidelines were used for the systematic review of the articles found after an extensive research through PubMed, Science Direct, EMBASE and Web of Science. A total of 16 studies were included for the statistical analysis.

Results: The results showed that the most common type of RLN was posterior to the ITA. However, according to Higgins I2 statistics the heterogeneity of the studies was quite high.

Conclusions: The relationship between the RLN and the ITA is quite variable. Anatomical knowledge of the region is vital for attempting to eliminate the risk of injuring the nerve during thyroidectomy.

J Clin Med Res. 2020;12(10):640-646


Inferior thyroid artery; Recurrent laryngeal nerve; Anatomy; Thyroidectomy

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