Motor innervation of the cricopharyngeus muscle by the recurrent laryngeal nerve

Carol Smith Hammond, Paul W. Davenport, Alastair Hutchison, Randall A. Otto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Patients with recurrent laryngeal nerve (RLN) paresis demonstrate impaired function of laryngeal muscles and swallowing. The cricopharyngeus muscle (CPM) is a major component of the upper esophageal sphincter. It was hypothesized that the RLN innervates this muscle. A nerve branch leading from the RLN to the CPM was found in adult sheep by anatomic dissection. Electrical stimulation of the RLN elicited a muscle action potential recorded by electrodes placed in the ipsilateral CPM. Swallowing was investigated by mechanical stimulation of oropharynx pre- and postsectioning of the RLN. Severing of the RLN resulted in a loss of the early phases of swallow-related CPM electromyographic activity; however, late-phase CPM electromyographic activity persisted. The RLN provides motor innervation of the CPM, which also has innervation from the pharyngeal plexus.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)89-94
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of applied physiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1997
Externally publishedYes


  • Esophageal reflux
  • Glottis
  • Swallow

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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