The pathophysiology of post-cardiac arrest brain damage is not well understood. Many of the model systems presently used to study global ischemia have serious limitations. A new model system for total cerebral ischemia (TCI), using aortic and inferior vena caval occlusion balloons, is described. This model system produces verifiable TCI and avoids surgical invasion of the thorax or the use of vasoactive drugs. It does not impede cerebral venous return and protects the cardiopulmonary system from damage. This model system can be used to study the efficacy of various therapeutic interventions following a standardized CNS global ischemic insult.