A Multicenter Review of Superior Laryngeal Nerve Injury Following Anterior Cervical Spine Surgery.

TitleA Multicenter Review of Superior Laryngeal Nerve Injury Following Anterior Cervical Spine Surgery.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2017
AuthorsTempel ZJ, Smith JS, Shaffrey C, Arnold PM, Fehlings MG, Mroz TE, K Riew D, Kanter AS
JournalGlobal Spine J
Issue1 Suppl
Date Published2017 Apr

STUDY DESIGN: A retrospective multicenter case-series study; case report and review of the literature.

OBJECTIVE: The anatomy and function of the superior laryngeal nerve (SLN) are well described; however, the consequences of SLN injury remain variable and poorly defined. The prevalence of SLN injury as a consequence of cervical spine surgery is difficult to discern as its clinical manifestations are often inconstant and frequently of a subclinical degree. A multicenter study was performed to better delineate the risk factors, prevalence, and outcomes of SLN injury.

METHODS: A retrospective multicenter case-series study involving 21 high-volume surgical centers from the AO Spine North America Clinical Research Network. Medical records for 17 625 patients who received subaxial cervical spine surgery from 2005 to 2011 were reviewed to identify occurrence of 21 predefined treatment complications. Descriptive statistics were provided for baseline patient characteristics. A retrospective review of the neurosurgical literature on SLN injury was also performed.

RESULTS: A total of 8887 patients who underwent anterior cervical spine surgery at the participating institutions were screened, and 1 case of SLN palsy was identified. The prevalence ranged from 0% to 1.25% across all centers. The patient identified underwent a C4 corpectomy. The SLN injury was identified after the patient demonstrated difficulty swallowing postoperatively. He underwent placement of a percutaneous gastrostomy tube and his SLN palsy resolved by 6 weeks.

CONCLUSIONS: This multicenter study demonstrates that identification of SLN injury occurs very infrequently. Symptomatic SLN injury is an exceedingly rare complication of anterior cervical spine surgery. The SLN is particularly vulnerable when exposing the more rostral levels of the cervical spine. Careful dissection and retraction of the longus coli may decrease the risk of SLN injury during anterior cervical surgery.

Alternate JournalGlobal Spine J
PubMed ID28451498
PubMed Central IDPMC5400181