Can the Zuckerkandl tubercle assist in the location of the inferior laryngeal nerve during thyroidectomies?

ABSTRACT Objective: to evaluate whether the lateral projection of the thyroid gland, called Zuckerkandl's tubercle (ZT), can assist the surgeon in identifying the inferior laryngeal nerve during conventional open thyroidectomy. Methods: we conducted a prospective study with 51 patients submitted to thyroidectomy, with a total of 100 resected thyroid lobes, and observed the presence or absence of ZT in sufficient dimensions to be identified without image magnification, its base and height, its location in the gland, and its anatomical relationship with the inferior laryngeal nerve. Results: ZT was present in 68 of the 100 thyroid lobes analyzed (68%). The mean base was 6.7mm on the right side and 7.1mm on the left side, and the average height was 5.7mm on the right side and 6.1mm on the left side. In most of the lobes studied, the tubercle had a minimum height of 5mm (55.9%), with no significant difference between the right and left lobes of the thyroid gland. During surgery, 100% of the identified ZTs were anterior to the inferior laryngeal nerve, just below the nerve entry in the larynx. Conclusion: the ZT is a quite frequent entity and large enough to serve as an intraoperative anatomical reference for the inferior laryngeal nerve, next to its entry in the larynx, along with other anatomical references.