A habit of busy office workers everywhere - cradling a phone between the head and shoulder - could be lethal, doctors warned yesterday. A French psychiatrist who spent more than an hour with a phone between his left ear and shoulder ruptured his carotid artery.

A habit of busy office workers everywhere - cradling a phone between the head and shoulder - could be lethal, doctors warned yesterday. A French psychiatrist who spent more than an hour with a phone between his left ear and shoulder ruptured his carotid artery.

Doctors said the 43-year-old man, who had been talking to a patient, was healthy, with no predisposition to heart disease. Shortly after the call, the psychiatrist suffered temporary blindness in his left eye followed by a pulsing ringing in his left ear and had difficulty speaking.

He had suffered a minor stroke. A scan showed a tear in the wall of the internal carotid artery, a blood vessel supplying the brain. A slender pointed bone called the styloid process had come into direct contact with the artery.

Everyone has two of these bones projecting from both sides of the skull under the ears and behind the jaw, but the psychiatrist's was unusually long. A neurologist, Mathieu Zuber, of Saint-Anne Hospital in Paris, 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 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. There is no simple procedure to identify people with long styloid processes. There haven't been studies to determine how common they are." Dr Zuber said 20 per cent of strokes in young adults were caused by tears in the carotid artery. Some might be due to long styloid processes.

The psychiatrist's symptoms disappeared in hours, and he was given anticoagulants for three months to keep his blood from clotting. Dr Zuber, who reported the case in the journal Neurology, said: "Now he avoids holding the phone between his ear and shoulder for long periods."

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