In a pericardial tamponade model of cardiogenic shock in pigs, we had previously shown that acute reductions in cardiac output produce severe mesenteric ischemia due to disproportionate splanchnic vasoconstriction. In this study, we extended the period of cardiogenic shock in order to investigate the pathogenesis of ischemic injury to the small intestinal wall. Four hours of tamponade produced sustained changes in splanchnic hemodynamics, similar to those observed in the prior short-term experiments. The resultant mesenteric ischemia caused necrotic lesions of the small intestine which were characteristic of those seen in nonocclusive mesenteric ischemia in human subjects. Prior alpha-adrenergic blockade failed to prevent either sustained mesenteric vasospasm or ischemic injury. In contrast, prior blockade of the renin-angiotensin axis, whether by nephrectomy or angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibition, blocked the splanchnic vasoconstriction, and thereby protected the small intestine from ischemic injury. The primary hemodynamic and pathologic features of this model of nonocclusive mesenteric ischemia appear to be mediated by the renin-angiotensin axis.