Patients with ischemic heart disease and significant left ventricular dysfunction are often difficult to manage medically. Revascularization procedures may improve left ventricular function and prognosis in this population if hypocontractile yet viable myocardium (hibernating myocardium) is demonstrated. Nuclear cardiology studies (single photon and positron methods), two-dimensional echocardiography, and magnetic resonance imaging studies have been utilized to identify hibernating myocardium. If thallium- 201 studies are performed, the use of reinjection of thallium and repeat imaging improves the sensitivity of these studies for the detection of viable myocardium. Dobutamine echocardiographic studies may have a higher specificity and positive predictive value for the subsequent improvement of regional systolic left ventricular function after revascularization than the nuclear techniques. However, thallium studies have an excellent negative predictive value. Positron emission tomography (PET) allows the simultaneous assessment of perfusion and metabolic activity; however, these studies are expensive and not widely available. Functional evaluation with PET is in its infancy. Functional cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), although not widely available yet, provides the most accurate evaluation of regional ventricular function. MRI spectroscopy may be utilized to assess myocardial viability. As acquisition times improve and 'real-time' imaging becomes a reality, MRI and MRI spectroscopy will likely become very accurate tools for assessing functional reserve and metabolic activity. The selection of the most appropriate method for assessment of myocardial viability will include consideration of a patient's characteristics, the presence of coronary arterial tree amenable to revascularization techniques, the techniques available to the clinician to assess viability, and local revascularization experience in this population. The result of an individual patient's evaluation is relevant to the consideration of coronary revascularization, or if this is not possible, cardiac transplantation.