Recurrent laryngeal nerve
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The recurrent laryngeal nerve (RLN), also known as the inferior laryngeal nerve, is a branch of the vagus nerve (CN X) which has a characteristic loop around the right subclavian artery on the right and the aortic arch on the left before returning up to ascend the tracheoesophageal groove and then the larynx.
location: superior mediastinum and the lower neck regions
origin and course: originates from the vagus nerve (CN X)
on the right side, the recurrent laryngeal nerve branches from CN X anteriorly to the subclavian artery and travels inferiorly and posteriorly under the artery before ascending through the neck between the trachea and the esophagus
on the left side, the recurrent laryngeal nerve branches from CN X at the aortic arch level and courses posteromedially beneath it before looping through the aortopulmonary window, posterolateral to the ligamentum arteriosum
the course from that point is symmetric
branches and supply
relations: right subclavian artery on the right side and aortic arch on the left
variants: non-recurrent laryngeal nerve
History and etymology
The Greek physician, Galen of Pergamon (129-210) was the first to describe the recurrent laryngeal nerve as a branch of a cranial nerve and famously demonstrated its role in vocalization when he accidentally cut the recurrent laryngeal nerve of a squealing pig 4.
The word recurrent is derived from the Latin word "recurrere" meaning "to run back" 5. This is in reference to the course of the recurrent laryngeal nerve.