Electrophysiological neural monitoring of the laryngeal nerves in thyroid surgery: review of the current literature

Ahmed Deniwar, Emad Kandil, Gregory Randolph


Recurrent laryngeal nerve (RLN) injury is one of the most common complications of thyroid surgery. RLN injury can cause vocal cord paralysis, affecting the patient’s voice and the quality of life. Injury of the external branch of the superior laryngeal nerve (EBSLN) can cause cricothyroid muscle denervation affecting high vocal tones. Thus, securing the laryngeal nerves in these surgeries is of utmost importance. Visual identification of the nerves has long been the standard method for this precaution. Intraoperative neuromonitoring (IONM) has been introduced as a novel technology to improve the protection of the laryngeal nerves and reduce the rate of RLN injury. The aim of this article is to provide a brief description of the technique and review the literature to illustrate the value of IONM. IONM can provide early identification of anatomical variations and unusual nerve routes, which carry a higher risk of injury if not detected. IONM helps in prognosticating postoperative nerve function. Moreover, by detecting nerve injury intraoperatively, it aids in staging bilateral surgeries to avoid bilateral vocal cord paralysis and tracheostomy. The article will discuss the value of continuous IONM (C-IOMN) that may prevent nerve injury by detecting EMG waveform changes indicating impending nerve injury. Herein, we are also discussing anatomy of laryngeal nerves and aspects of its injury.