Vasoactive mediators and splanchnic perfusion

P. M. Reilly, G. B. Bulkley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: To provide an overview of the splanchnic hemodynamic response to circulatory shock. Data Sources: Previous studies performed in our own laboratory, as well as a computer-assisted search of the English language literature (MEDLINE, 1966 to 1991), followed by a selective review of pertinent articles. Study Selection: Studies were selected that demonstrated relevance to the splanchnic hemodynamic response to circulatory shock, either by investigating the pathophysiology or documenting the sequelae. Article selection included clinical studies as well as studies in appropriate animal models. Data Extraction: Pertinent data were abstracted from the cited articles. Results of Data Synthesis: The splanchnic hemodynamic response to circulatory shock is characterized by a selective vasoconstriction of the mesenteric vasculature mediated largely by the renin-angiotensin axis. This vasospasm, while providing a natural selective advantage to the organism in mild-to-moderate shock (preserving relative perfusion of the heart, kidneys, and brain), may, in more severe shock, cause consequent loss of the gut epithelial barrier, or even hemorrhagic gastritis, ischemic colitis, or ischemic hepatitis. From a physiologic standpoint, nonpulsatile cardiopulmonary bypass, a controlled form of circulatory shock, has been found experimentally to significantly increase circulating levels of angiotensin II, the hormone responsible for this selective splanchnic vasoconstriction. Conclusions: While angiotensin II has been viewed primarily as the mediator responsible for the increased total vascular resistance seen during (and after) cardiopulmonary bypass, it may also cause the disproportionate decrease in mesenteric perfusion, as measured in human subjects by intraluminal gastric tonometry and galactose clearance by the liver, as well as the consequent development of the multiple organ failure syndrome seen in 1% to 5% of patients after cardiac surgery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S55-S68
JournalCritical care medicine
Issue number2 SUPPL.
StatePublished - 1993


  • angiotensin II
  • autoregulation
  • critical illness
  • hemodynamics
  • ischemia
  • multiple organ failure
  • renin-angiotensin system
  • shock
  • splanchnic circulation
  • vasoconstriction
  • vasopressin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


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