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Limited cardiac reserve, secondary to coronary disease, may be associated with end organ morbidity. In this study, we investigate the significance of anemia in the pathogenesis of this phenomenon. Nonrandomized controlled animal trial. Animal laboratory in a university hospital. Anesthetized dogs. Fourteen anesthetized dogs underwent isovolemic hemodilution with 6% hetastarch from a baseline hematocrit of 40 to 20%. Radioactive microspheres were used to evaluate regional blood flow and cardiac index. Systemic oxygen delivery, consumption, serum lactate, and systemic vascular resistance were recorded during each experiment. Arterial venous oxygen difference was determined from arterial and mixed venous blood. Seven dogs had an iatrogenic critical stenosis of their left anterior descending coronary artery (experimental group); seven dogs did not (control). Only in the control animals, the cardiac index increased by 35% with hemodilution to 20%. Systemic oxygen delivery decreased in both the control and the experimental animals. Systemic oxygen consumption and lactate levels were unchanged in both groups. In the renal cortex, spleen, distal colon, ileum, gallbladder, and stomach body, regional O2 delivery was significantly decreased with hemodilution to 20% in both groups. This finding was also observed in the left ventricle and cervical spinal cord in the experimental group. In addition, regional O2 delivery was reduced in the spleen, distal colon, and gallbladder with hemodilution to only 30%. Regional blood flow in the stomach body, gallbladder, ileum, renal cortex, and distal colon, in both groups, and the spleen in the control group was unchanged from baseline with hemodilution to 20%. However, regional blood flow under all other circumstances (control or experimental) was significantly increased with hemodilution to 20% with the exception of the spleen, which showed significant regional blood flow decrease in the experimental group only. These data suggest that with limited cardiac reserve, anemia may compromise aerobic splanchnic circulation. These observations may further our understanding of the pathogenesis of cholecystitis, gastric stress ulcers, ileal endotoxin translocation, and ischemic colitis in critically ill patients with coronary artery disease.