A survey of four inhaled beta-agonist agents was evaluated as a means of selecting the optimum agent for chronic therapy in patients with stable COPD. Eighteen patients completed as protocol of prebronchodilator and postbronchodilator spirometry utilizing albuterol, metaproterenol, pirbuterol, and terbutaline daily in random order. Subsequently, each patient received treatment with either the greatest or least response-invoking agent for four weeks, followed by a second interval with the opposite agent. At the end of each interval, the results of repeat spirometry, arterial blood gas determinations, 12-min walks, dyspnea questionnaires, and self-monitored peak expiratory flow rates were recorded. Use of the greatest response-invoking agent resulted in significantly larger prebronchodilator and postbronchodilator FEV1 and FVC. No other study factor was significantly different. Acute bronchodilator surveys may have a role in medication selection in view of the improvement in spirometric volumes.