Recurrent laryngeal nerve

The recurrent laryngeal nerve (RLN), also know 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 achieve 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), and descends the cervical region along the carotid artery sheath into the mediastinum
    • on the right side, the RLN exits anteriorly to the subclavian artery and travels inferiorly and posteriorly under the artery before ascending through the neck between the trachea and the oesophagus
    • on the left side, the RLN exits at the aortic arch level and courses posteromedially beneath it before looping through the aorticopulmonary window, posterior to the ligamentum arteriosum
    • then the nerve has an ascending vertical path through the superior mediastinum until reaching the tracheo-oesophageal groove
  • branches and supply
    • almost all the intrinsic muscles of the larynx
    • sensory and secretomotor fibers to the laryngeal structures and trachea
  • relations: right subclavian artery on the right side and aortic arch on the left
  • variants: non-recurrent laryngeal nerve
Head and neck anatomy
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Article information

rID: 41456
System: Head & Neck
Section: Anatomy
Tag: refs
Synonyms or Alternate Spellings:
  • Inferior laryngeal nerve

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