Both the American Thoracic Society and European Respiratory Society have recently published guidelines on the diagnosis and management of of COPD (Celli BR et al, Standards for the diagnosis and care of patients with COPD. Am J Respir Crit Care Med, 1995; 152:S77-S120 and Siafakas NM et al, Optimal assessment and management of COPD. Eur Respir J, 1995; 8:1398-1420). Guidelines from the British Thoracic Society are due to be published shortly, but are unlikely to differ significantly from the European guidelines. The European guidelines are more thorough on assessment and diagnosis whereas the American guidelines are much more extensive in their review of managment of the disease in primary and secondary care. What follows is a short synopsis of the two sets of guidelines, pointing out differences between the 2 where they exist. Also included are some of this authors own personal viewpoints where they differ or add to the guidelines.