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INJURY TO THE RECURRENT LARYNGEAL NERVE

John F. Quinlan, M.D.
JAMA. 1937;109(10):809. doi:10.1001/jama.1937.02780360057020.
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ABSTRACT

To the Editor:—  In the editorial "Total Thyroidectomy for Congestive Heart Failure," appearing in The Journal, July 17, the following statement occurs: "Injury to the recurrent laryngeal nerve was recorded in 8.2 per cent of the cases. In no instance was it bilateral or permanent." This statement includes an opinion widely held among clinicians even though it contains a gross anatomic ambiguity as well as, by implication, a definite falsehood. According to the BNA there is no recurrent laryngeal nerve. What is meant by the customary term is the left laryngeal or recurrent nerve, as there is only one recurrent nerve in the body. The reason for this asymmetry is that in the embryologic rotation and descent of the heart from the neck into the thorax the left laryngeal nerve is caught between its origin and insertion and pulled down with it, coming to rest in a loop around the

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