Tracheoesophageal groove: a reliable landmark

Nitika Gupta, Rohan Gupta, Inderpal Singh, Sunil Kotwal


Background: Galen first described the recurrent laryngeal nerve (RLN) as a nerve that descended from the brain to the heart, then reversed the course and ascended to the larynx and caused the vocal cords to move. Tracheoesophageal groove is useful for identifying the RLN. In the present study we studied the course of RLN in tracheoesophageal groove and its anatomical position, in patients undergoing thyroid surgery.

Methods: The study was conducted in the Department of ENT and Head and Neck Surgery, SMGS Hospital, for a period of two years, on the patients who underwent thyroid surgeries. Tracheoesophageal groove was considered first landmark to identify RLN position and only after meticulous dissection in the groove, the nerve could be identified. The nerve was carefully dissected and its position evaluated in relation with trachea and esophagus.  

Results: Trajectory of the nerves studied in the patients was mostly in the tracheoesophageal groove (TEG), seen in 113 (69.75%) nerves. 16.05% of the nerves were seen in the posterior half of the trachea while 4.94% of the nerves were seen to travel from TEG to anterior half of trachea and 1.85% from TEG to posterior half of trachea. 6.17% of nerves travelled from oesophagus to the TEG.

Conclusions: A uniform dissection procedure should be followed and the recurrent laryngeal nerve must be first looked for in the TEG, which serves as important landmark and later any deviation must be considered.



RLN, Tracheoesophageal, Groove, Thyroid

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