In our clinic, near-total thyroidectomy is the principal surgical procedure performed for benign thyroid diseases. We conducted a single-institution study on 176 consecutive patients who underwent near-total thyroidectomy due to various thyroid diseases. We compared the incidence of recurrent laryngeal nerve injury between total and near-total thyroid lobectomy sides in each patient. Our hypothesis was that the incidence of recurrent laryngeal nerve injury after total thyroid lobectomy would be similar to that of near-total thyroid lobectomy when the course of the recurrent laryngeal nerve was identified during surgery. The temporary recurrent laryngeal nerve palsy rates on the total and near-total thyroid lobectomy sides were 3.9 per cent (7 of 176 nerves) and 2.2 per cent (4 of 176 nerves), respectively. The difference was not statistically significant. Permanent recurrent laryngeal nerve palsy did not occur in any of our patients. In conclusion, the incidence of recurrent laryngeal nerve injury in total versus near-total thyroid lobectomy is not different when the course of the recurrent laryngeal nerve is identified during surgery.