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INTRODUCTION The aims of this study were to assess and compare vocal cord functions before and after thyroid surgery after intra-operative identification of recurrent laryngeal nerve.PATIENTS AND METHODS Recurrent laryngeal nerve (RLN) is seen intra-operatively in all cases undergoing thyroid surgeries. Vocal cord functions including any voice change were evaluated by indirect laryngoscopy (I/L) and direct laryngoscopy (D/L)before and after surgery.RESULTS Prospective study on 100 patients over 18 months with a total of 146 nerves at risk (NAR). Majority were women (n = 86) with mean age of 37.48 years (range, 13-60 years). RLN was seen in all patients and 19 patients complained of some change in quality of their voice after surgery. Evaluation by I/L and D/L at 6 weeks showed recurrent laryngeal nerve palsy (RLNP) in nine (47.36%) and five (26%) of these 19 patients respectively. Analysed according to total NAR, the incidence of voice change and temporary RLN palsy (I/L and D/L) at 6 weeks was still less at 13.01%, 6.16% and 3.42%, respectively. Voice change improved in all cases at 3 months with no RLNP palsy by I/L or D/L. All these 19 patients had undergone difficult or extensive surgery for malignancy, large gland, extratyhroidal spread or fibrosis.CONCLUSIONS Despite identification and preservation of RLN, patients can develop postoperative voice change and RLNP although all voice change cannot be attributed to damaged RLN. Proper assessment of vocal cord functions by I/L and D/L laryngoscopy is required to rule out injuries to these nerves. Risk of damage is higher in patients undergoing more difficult surgery.
This article was published in the following journal.
Name: Annals of the Royal College of Surgeons of England
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