Current management of COPD by Belgian physicians was compared with the recommendations of the recently published GOLD guidelines. A random sample of 386 general practitioners and 86 pulmonologists filled in a questionnaire based on the GOLD guidelines and examining their attitudes towards COPD management. Several important deviations from the guidelines were noted. Only few GP's performed spirometry themselves and about 55% of the diagnoses were not based on spirometry. Both GP's and pulmonologists used inhaled corticosteroids considerably more often than prescribed by the guidelines, with 49% and 25% respectively, prescribing them to all COPD patients. Chronic systemic steroids were also overused in stable disease, with 55% of the GP's and 52% of the pulmonologists prescribing them in patients with repeated exacerbations. GP's did not use enough systemic corticosteroids and overused antibiotics in the treatment of exacerbations. Pulmonologists did not pay enough attention to pulmonary rehabilitation, as only 44% of them had a structured programme. Pulmonologists did not use non-invasive ventilation frequently enough in the treatment of exacerbations, as only 22% would use it in the correct indication. Both GP's and pulmonologists did not prescribe enough pharmacotherapy for smoking cessation, with 35% and 46%, respectively using it. Some interesting differences between Dutch and French speaking physicians were noted. These specific deviations from the guidelines will be addressed in a second phase implementation project.