Congestive heart failure is a major public health problem in Western countries. Despite current treatment including angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors, mortality and morbidity remain high. The sympathetic nervous system is markedly activated in heart failure, and inhibition of this system with the beta-adrenergic blocking agents may provide further benefit. Several clinical trials involving over 3,000 patients have shown that beta-blocker therapy improves left ventricular function in patients with heart failure. However, the effects of such therapy on symptoms and exercise tolerance have been variable. Recent reports have suggested that survival is improved with the beta-blocker carvedilol. Large-scale, long-term clinical trials are required to confirm these findings and to clearly define the role of this promising therapy for patients with heart failure.