Zuckerkandl tubercle

Zuckerkandl tubercles are the projections of normal thyroid tissue from the posterior or posteromedial margin of the thyroid gland that extend posterior to the tracheoesophageal groove. They are present in most patients and occur more commonly on the right and in the longitudinal center 50% of the lobe 1,2.

The tubercle is an important surgical landmark as the recurrent laryngeal nerve passes immediately medial to it 3.

When it has a pedunculated or nodular appearance, sometimes due to the lateral impression of the common carotid artery, the tubercle can be mistaken for a thyroid nodule, enlarged parathyroid, or lymph node 1. Recognizing this finding as a normal variant is important for avoiding unnecessary concern. However, it should be noted that disease (e.g. thyroid cancer) can still occur within this structure. 

History and etymology

Named after Emil Zuckerkandl (1849-1910) 4, Professor of Anatomy at the University of Vienna, who described it in 1902. 

Anatomy: Head and neck
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Article information

rID: 27555
System: Head & Neck
Section: Anatomy
Synonyms or Alternate Spellings:
  • Posterior horn of the thyroid
  • Processus posterior glandulae thyreoidea
  • Tubercle of Zuckerkandl
  • Zuckerkandl's tubercle

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Cases and figures

  • Figure 1: illustration
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  • Case 1: right Zuckerkandl tubercle
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  • Case 2: nodular left Zuckerkandl tubercle
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  • Case 3: goiter involving Zuckerkandl tubercle
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