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Understanding the anatomy of the larynx from the era of Gimbernat to the present day moving towards laryngeal transplantation

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Stephen McHanwell


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Knowledge of the gross anatomy of the larynx in Spain throughout the period when Gimbernat was working as a surgeon and anatomist was considerable; very much comparable to our present understanding. However, the lack of aseptic surgical technique, anaesthesia, and antibiotics limited the ability to undertake complex surgery. Nevertheless, it was during that period when for first time it became possible to diagnose some laryngeal pathologies, thanks to the invention, by a Spanish-singer, Manuel Garcia (1805-1906), of a primitive laryngoscope that made it possible to see the laryngeal interior. Only in 1873 was the first major surgery of the larynx was reported when Billroth undertook the first laryngectomy to treat surgically laryngeal carcinoma. It was more than a hundred years later, before the first laryngeal transplantation was attempted by Strome and his team (1998), and though initially meeting with some success, that transplanted larynx had to be removed 14 years later. Based on our current understanding of laryngeal anatomy and surgical technique, we argue that there are four factors that must be addressed if satisfactory transplantation of the larynx to be achieved: 1) psycho-social and ethico-legal aspects; 2) tissue viability vs. rejection; 3) restoration of a vascular, and 4) selective reinner-vation of the larynx has to be achieved. The three first factors are being addressed, however, the selective reinnervation remains challenging because the nerve supply of the larynx is now known to be much more complex than many accounts imply. This is because: 1) each laryngeal muscle may receive a variable number of nerve branches; 2) there are multiple connections between the different laryngeal nerves; 3) many laryngeal nerves and connections are mixed conveying both motor and sensory fibres; and 4) the laryngeal muscles may receive a dual nerve supply, from both the recurrent laryngeal and superior laryngeal nerves.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Sanudo JR, Maranillo E, Vazquez T, Quer M, Leon X, McHanwell S

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: European Journal of Anatomy

Year: 2016

Volume: 20

Issue: Suppl. 1

Pages: 93-102

Online publication date: 19/11/2016

Acceptance date: 02/04/2016

ISSN (print): 1136-4890

Publisher: Sociedad Anatomica Espanola