Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

Front Page



UK Politics







Talking Point

In Depth

On Air

Low Graphics

Wednesday, November 10, 1999 Published at 01:35 GMT


Cradling phone can cause 'mini-stroke'

Cradling the phone can damage your health

People who cradle the telephone between their head and shoulder could be putting themselves at risk of a "mini-stroke", leading to temporary loss of vision and speech problems.

Scientists say a 43-year old psychiatrist in France spent an hour on the telephone talking to a patient, cradling the receiver between his left ear and shoulder so he could keep his hands free.

Shortly afterwards he experienced a temporary blindness in his left eye, together with a ringing in his left ear and a difficulty in speaking.

An angiogram of the patient's brain showed he had ruptured the carotid artery, a vital blood vessel supplying the brain, eyes and other parts of the head.

The psychiatrist had no predisposition to arterial disease, but a CT scan showed a bony structure was directly in contact with his internal carotid artery.

This was his styloid process, a slender, pointed bone which runs from both sides of the skull under the ears and behind the jaw.

Although everyone has two, the man's was unusually long, and was the cause of the rupture.

In this case, the psychiatrist's symptoms disappeared within a few hours.


He was prescribed anti-coagulants for three months to prevent his blood from clotting.

Dr Mathieu Zuber, a neurologist at Sainte-Anne Hospital in Paris, who reported the case, said long styroid processes could be a more common cause of tears, or dissections, in the walls of the carotid artery than previously thought.

He said around 20% of strokes in young adults were caused by dissections.

Dr Zuber said: "Fortunately, this patient had only a transient ischaemic attack, or a brief interruption in blood flow to the brain that resolved in less than 24 hours.

"But this case shows us that everyday activities with a prolonged distortion of the neck, such as holding the phone between your ear and shoulder, can have unpredictable consequences for some people.

"Unfortunately, there is no simple procedure to identify people with long styroid processes. There haven't been any studies to determine how common these are, but they could be occurring more frequently than was generally thought."

The psychiatrist has had no more symptoms, but now avoids holding the telephone between his ear and shoulder for long periods at a time.

The study was reported in the November issue of Neurology, the journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

Advanced options | Search tips

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©

Health Contents

Background Briefings
Medical notes

Relevant Stories

06 Nov 99 | Health
Mobile phone 'brain risk'

12 Oct 99 | Health
Stroke care 'disorganised and haphazard'

08 Oct 99 | Medical notes
Minor strokes: The health risks

15 Jun 99 | Health
MPs study mobile phone health fears

Internet Links

Stroke Association

Stroke information sites

American Academy of Neurology

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

In this section

Disability in depth

Spotlight: Bristol inquiry

Antibiotics: A fading wonder

Mental health: An overview

Alternative medicine: A growth industry

The meningitis files

Long-term care: A special report

Aids up close

From cradle to grave

NHS reforms: A guide

NHS Performance 1999

From Special Report
NHS in crisis: Special report

British Medical Association conference '99

Royal College of Nursing conference '99