• May, 2006
  • Chan WF
  • Lo CY


Pitfalls of intraoperative neuromonitoring for predicting postoperative recurrent laryngeal nerve function during thyroidectomy.


Intraoperative neuromonitoring has been widely adopted to facilitate the identification and preservation of recurrent laryngeal nerve (RLN) function during thyroid surgery. The present prospective study validated the ability of this technique to predict postoperative RLN outcomes in a single endocrine surgical unit.


Neuromonitoring was performed using Neurosign 100 with laryngeal surface electrodes in 171 patients with 271 nerves at risk during thyroidectomy. Vocal cord function was routinely documented perioperatively. Patients were also stratified to low risk (primary surgery for benign disease) and high risk (malignancy and recurrent disease) for subgroup analysis.


Unilateral vocal cord palsy occurred in 15 patients (5.5%) postoperatively. The incidence of postoperative nerve palsy in the low risk and high risk groups was 4.4% and 7.8%, respectively. All but two patients had recovery of function within a median period of 4 months after the operation. The rates of transient and permanent RLN palsy based on nerves at risk were 4.8% (n = 13) and 0.7% (n = 2), respectively. There were 241 true-negative (positive signal and no cord palsy), 15 false-positive (negative signal but no cord palsy), 8 true-positive (negative signal and cord palsy), and 7 false-negative (positive signal but cord palsy) results, as correlated with the postoperative assessment. The sensitivity, specificity, and positive and negative predictive values were 53%, 94%, 35%, and 97%, respectively. For the high risk group, the sensitivity and positive predictive value increased to 86% and 60%, respectively.


There are pitfalls associated with the use of intraoperative neuromonitoring during thyroid surgery. Routine application is not recommended except for selected high risk patients.