Anatomical variation and distribution of the vagus nerve in the esophageal hiatus: a cross-sectional study of post-mortem cases in Uganda

Document Type



Brain and Mind Institute



Vagus nerve injuries during gastroesophageal surgery may cause significant symptoms due to loss of vagal anti-inflammatory and neuromodulator function. Many previous studies have shown high anatomical variability of the vagus nerve at the esophageal hiatus, but information on its variability in Uganda specifically and Africa in general is scanty. This study provides a reliable and detailed description of the anatomical variation and distribution of the vagus nerve in the esophageal hiatus region of post-mortem cases in Uganda.


This was an analytical cross-sectional survey of 67 unclaimed post-mortem cases. Data collection used a pretested data collection form. Data were entered into Epi-Info version 6.0 data base then exported into STATA software 13.0 for analysis.


The pattern of the anterior vagal trunk structures at the esophageal hiatus was: single trunk [65.7%]; biplexus [20.9%]; triplexus [8.9%] and double-but-not-connected trunks [4.5%]. The pattern of the posterior trunk structures were: single trunk [85.1%]; biplexus 10.4% and triplexus [4.5%]. There was no statistically significant gender difference in the pattern of vagal fibres. There was no major differences in the pattern from comparable British studies.


The study confirmed high variability in the distribution of the vagus nerve at the esophageal hiatus, unrelated to gender differences. Surgeons must consider and identify variants of vagal innervation when carrying out surgery at the gastroesophageal junction to avoid accidental vagal injuries. Published surgical techniques for preserving vagal function are valid in Uganda


This work was published before the author joined Aga Khan University.

Publication (Name of Journal)

Surgical and Radiologic Anatomy