Spinal cord ischemia with resultant paraplegia or paraparesis remains an important clinical problem after operations on the thoracoabdominal aorta. Because hypothermia has a protective effect on ischemic neural tissue, we developed a baboon model of spinal cord ischemia to simulate the situation encountered clinically for resection of aneurysms of the thoracoabdominal aorta and to determine whether profound hypothermia produced by hypothermic cardiopulmonary bypass has a protective effect on spinal cord function. After cardiopulmonary bypass was established, the aorta was clamped distal to the left subclavian artery and proximal to the renal arteries for 60 minutes. Group I animals (n = 9) underwent aortic clamping at normothermia (37° C), and group II animals (n = 9) were cooled to a rectal temperature of 15° C before aortic clamping and underwent cardiopulmonary bypass at this temperature until the aorta was unclamped. Of the eight operative survivors in group I, six animals were paraplegic and two were paraparetic, whereas all six group II animals that survived the procedure were neurologically intact (p = 0.0002). The protective effect of hypothermia was associated with blunting of the hyperemic response of spinal cord blood flow (determined by the radioactive microsphere technique) in the lower thoracic and the lumbar segments of the spinal cord after unclamping of the aorta. Profound hypothermia produced by hypothermic cardiopulmonary bypass may be an effective method of protection of the spinal cord in patients undergoing repair of aneurysms of the thoracoabdominal aorta and may reduce the prevalence of ischemic injury to the spinal cord.