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April 18, 2014
Q. If you suffer a serious health problem while on a commercial flight, how might “telephone booth syncope” enter into play here?
A. Let's say you wind up passing out on the plane, but the narrow seats keep you from falling, so you are without sufficient blood flow to the brain, a situation that can lead to cardiac arrest, says Dena Rifkin, M.D., in Discover magazine. This potentially lethal combination was known as “telephone booth syncope,” where passing out in an old-style telephone booth kept the body upright and caused the central nervous system to shut down — especially breathing controlled by the brain stem. “Falling over is the body's way of protecting itself from low blood pressure because it allows whatever blood pressure remains to work with gravity in getting blood to the brain.”
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