To review the current literature pertaining to the pathophysiology, diagnosis, and treatment of injuries sustained from high-rise syndrome in cats and dogs.
High-rise syndrome is defined as a fall from a height of 2 or more stories that results in a constellation of injuries, including thoracic, abdominal, orthopedic, and orofacial trauma. Animals often fall after slipping from windowsills, engaging in mating behavior, or chasing prey. Cats suffer less severe injuries than dogs due to their “righting reflex” and smaller body mass. Affected animals are younger, and the frequency of falls is higher in warmer months.
Physical examination coupled with radiographs, ultrasound, and computed tomography can diagnose a myriad of injuries that include pneumothorax, pleural or abdominal effusion, orthopedic fractures, and orofacial injuries. Bloodwork may identify anemia, thrombocytopenia, or increases in hepatic, renal, or pancreatic values consistent with trauma to these organs. Serial venous or arterial blood gas can help determine the severity of respiratory compromise and influence resuscitative efforts. Traditional coagulation tests and thromboelastography can assess trauma-induced coagulopathy and guide transfusion therapy.
Animals presenting in shock require hemodynamic stabilization. Initial resuscitation may incorporate crystalloids, colloids, blood products, and analgesics. Thoracic injuries may require oxygen, thoracocentesis, chest tube placement, and mechanical ventilation. Fractures and wounds are decontaminated and splinted/bandaged, with definitive fixation pursued after stabilization. Abdominal injuries are managed medically unless there is severe ongoing bleeding, sepsis, or injury to the urinary tract.
In feline high-rise syndrome, the prognosis is generally excellent following treatment, with survival exceeding 90%. Canine literature is sparse. The largest retrospective study reported a >90% survival to discharge and a greater need for surgical stabilization in this species. There are no prognostic factors identified that are associated with survival for either species.
Journal of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care, EarlyView.Wiley: Journal of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care: Table of Contents