Animal and human studies have shown that carvedilol has significant antioxidant properties compared with other beta-blockers. The objective of this study was to determine if these antioxidant effects are detectable in patients with heart failure and to compare carvedilol with the selective beta-blocker metoprolol. Twenty-four patients with chronic heart failure were randomly assigned to receive either carvedilol or metoprolol in a double-blind control trial for 12 weeks in a University teaching hospital clinic. Blood pressure, heart rate, exercise tolerance, left ventricular ejection fraction, plasma total antioxidant status, erythrocyte superoxide dismutase, and glutathione peroxidase activities were determined at baseline and every 4 weeks up to 12 weeks. The results showed that erythrocyte superoxide dismutase and glutathione peroxidase were significantly reduced in carvedilol treated patients after 12 weeks of therapy, whereas metoprolol had no significant effect, although the clinical improvement over the short-term was similar with both drugs. Thus carvedilol, in addition to improving symptoms in heart failure, also possesses significant antioxidant properties. Whether this additional action influences long-term outcome is at present unknown.