This paper describes the use of the Neurosign 100 Nerve Monitor and vagus nerve stimulation in the identification and assessment of the integrity of the recurrent laryngeal nerve (RLN) during thyroid and parathyroid surgery.
Vocal fold function was assessed pre- and post-operatively in all patients undergoing thyroid and parathyroid surgery. The nerve monitor, used in association with endotracheal electrodes, was used to confirm correct RLN identification and demonstrate its integrity at the completion of surgery.
There were 21 unilateral and 19 bilateral neck explorations. In these 40 patients, 57 of 59 RLNs were identified. The nerve monitor demonstrated RLN continuity in all but one case (equipment failure: electrode misplacement) after initial identification. Vagus nerve stimulation was performed in 21 patients without adverse sequelae. Damage to the RLN was identified in one of these patients, in whom direct RLN stimulation close to the larynx had failed to indicate discontinuity. Post-operatively this patient had a transient unilateral vocal fold palsy.
The use of the Neurosign 100 Nerve Monitor is no substitute for meticulous surgery. Stimulation of the vagus nerve may be a more sensitive means of assessing RLN integrity during thyroid and parathyroid surgery than stimulation of the RLN itself. Confirmation of RLN integrity allows the surgeon to proceed with confidence to the contralateral side of the neck during hazardous bilateral explorations.