Background: Carvedilol reduces mortality and improves symptoms and ejection fraction in ischemic heart failure, but its mode of action is not well defined and not all patients respond to treatment. The aim of the CHRISTMAS (Carvedilol Hibernation Reversible Ischaemia Trial, Marker of Success) study is to examine whether hibernation may be a significant factor determining this response. This paper describes the methodology and the rationale for the choice of the nuclear cardiology and echocardiography imaging techniques used in the study.
Methods and results: The CHRISTMAS study is a double-blind, randomised, parallel group, multinational study of oral carvedilol versus placebo in patients with chronic stable heart failure due to left ventricular systolic dysfunction from coronary artery disease. The study aims to randomise 400 patients who are on optimal treatment. Two parallel groups will be randomised to carvedilol or placebo, namely 200 with hibernating myocardium at baseline and 200 matched patients without. The presence of hibernation is defined from a mismatch between regional contractile function and regional viability, measured by echocardiography (severe segmental asynergy) and nitrate prepared resting Tc99m-MIBI myocardial perfusion imaging (segmental activity >60%). The primary treatment-related end-point of the study is the comparison of the mean change, from baseline to the final visit, in radionuclide-determined left ventricular ejection fraction in patients on placebo with those on carvedilol, between the groups designated as hibernating and non-hibernating. Other end-points being examined include the prevalence of hibernation in heart failure, the relationship between the volume of hibernating myocardium and the ejection fraction response, the prevalence of reversible ischemia in heart failure, and the comparison of echo with gated SPECT. To date, 303 patients have been screened and 251 patients randomised in the study. The study aims to report in 2000.
Conclusions: The CHRISTMAS study addresses the issue of whether the presence of hibernation is a predictor of the ejection fraction response to carvedilol in heart failure. It also examines the potential role of medical therapy in hibernation as well as a number of other end-points. The study may potentially lead to an important new role for nuclear cardiology in heart failure, and demonstrates important synergy between cardiac imaging and the pharmaceutical industry.