This study compares the incidence and extent of hibernating myocardium (defined by myocardial perfusion/metabolism mismatch) in 28 cardiac transplant candidates with ischaemic cardiomyopathy and in 16 other patients with coronary artery disease (CAD) undergoing viability assessment. It then reviews the impact of myocardial perfusion metabolism imaging on management decisions in the transplant candidates at 6 months after scintigraphy. Each patient underwent a planar myocardial thallium-201 and fluorine-18 fluorodeoxyglucose scan on a modified gamma camera. Perfusion/metabolism mismatch was sized semi-quantitatively and each patient was assigned a global mismatch score. Transplant candidates had a lower left ventricular ejection fraction (LVEF) (P < 0.0002) and extent of hibernation myocardium (lower global mismatch score: P = 0.005) than other CAD patients but the difference in respect of mismatch frequency (8/28 vs 9/16 patients) did not reach statistical significance. Transplant candidates with LVEF < 20% had a lower global mismatch score (P < 0.02) than those with an LVEF > or = 20%. Interestingly two of three other CAD patients with LVEF < 20% had a moderate mismatch. Follow-up studies revealed the lack of impact of metabolic imaging as none of the three transplant candidates who eventually underwent revascularisation had hibernating myocardium and transplantation was offered to one of only two candidates with more than one minor mismatch. Thus metabolic imaging in potential transplant candidates may be of limited value because of the very low extent of hibernating myocardium, particularly if LVEF is below 20% and where clinical decisions are often based on many other factors.