The course of lower cranial nerves within the neck: a cadaveric dissection study

YIGIT E. , Dursun E. , OMEROGLU E., SUNTER A. V. , EDIZER D. T. , TERZI S. , ...More

EUROPEAN ARCHIVES OF OTO-RHINO-LARYNGOLOGY, vol.275, no.10, pp.2541-2548, 2018 (Journal Indexed in SCI) identifier identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 275 Issue: 10
  • Publication Date: 2018
  • Doi Number: 10.1007/s00405-018-5091-4
  • Page Numbers: pp.2541-2548


PurposeTo evaluate the course of lower cranial nerves (CNs) within the neck in relation to surrounding structures and anatomic landmarks via a cadaveric dissection study.MethodsA total of 70 neck dissections (31 bilateral, 8 unilateral) were performed on 39 adult fresh cadavers [mean (SD) age: 38.5 (11.2) years, 29 male, 10 female] to identify the course of lower CNs [spinal accessory nerve (SAN), vagus nerve and hypoglossal nerve] within the neck in relation to surrounding structures [internal jugular vein (IJV), common carotid artery (CCA)] and distance to anatomical landmarks (cricoid cartilage, hyoid bone, digastric muscle).ResultsSAN travelled most commonly anterior to IJV (51.4%) at the level of jugular foramen, while travelling lateral to IJV at the post belly of digastric (55.7%) and inferior to digastric muscle (90%) in most neck dissections. Vagus nerve travelled lateral to CCA in majority (94.3%) of dissections, while medial (2.9%), posterolateral (1.4%) and posterior (1.4%) positions were also noted. Average distance of hypoglossal nerve was 27.7 (9.7) mm to carotid bifurcation, 9.3 (3.9) mm to hyoid bone, and 54.7 (18.0) mm to the inferior border of cricoid cartilage.ConclusionIn conclusion, our findings indicate that anatomic variations are not rare in the course of lower CNs within the neck in relation to adjacent structures, and awareness of these variations together with knowledge of distance to certain anatomic landmarks may help the surgeon to identify lower CNs during neck surgery and prevent potential nerve injuries.