Trends in the hospital care of patients with obstructive lung disease at the Department of Respiratory Medicine, Vest-Agder Central Hospital are surveyed for the period 1970 to end of 1988. Information was obtained from annals, computerised lists and patient records. The number of beds was reduced from 56-58 during the 1970s to 29 in 1988. The stay in hospital averaged 20 days in 1970 and was down to five days for asthmatics and some ten days for the rest in 1988. Parallel to these changes these were more re-admissions during the 1980s. For a minority of 17 patients admitted to the department in 1988 the number of admissions in the course of the year totalled 165. Mean age increased from 50 years for both sexes in 1970 to 60 years for women and 65 years for men in 1988. Start of symptoms before 20 years of age occurred in less than 20% of the patients, and the frequency of allergics was far below the figures often stated for the whole population. There was a marked discrepancy between the diagnostic labels used by general practitioners and the ones used by general practitioners tendency for general practitioners to label patients as asthmatics more often than the hospital doctors did.