The following guideline presents a series of recommendations based on published medical literature for use of the antinuclear antibody (ANA) test and tests for specific autoantibodies to nuclear antigens in the diagnostic evaluation, prognostic assessment, and monitoring of patients with systemic rheumatic diseases. The guideline emphasizes the need for clinical evaluation to improve the usefulness of test results in patient management. Consideration is given to appropriate use of the generic ANA test in the initial evaluation of patients with signs and symptoms of a systemic rheumatic disease, the evaluation of patients suspected of having lupus erythematosus, use in clinical situations in which the ANA test is required to establish a disease diagnosis, and identification of clinical situations in which the ANA test has little value. Sections are also devoted to recommendations aimed at improving the analytic methods used to detect and measure ANA and specific autoantibodies to nuclear antigens and to the appropriate use of tests for specific autoantibodies in several disease situations that commonly occur in patients with suspected or documented systemic rheumatic diseases. Emphasis is placed on the use of these tests only in situations in which the test results can be expected to provide information necessary for clinical decision making. Those tests of limited medical usefulness and situations in which test results are likely to be misleading are also identified.