Assessment of patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is important to establish an accurate diagnosis, assist in making therapeutic decisions, measuring outcomes for clinical and research purposes, and determining prognosis. Chest computed tomography (CT) scans are useful in patients who present with airflow limitation and clinical features suggestive of COPD but in whom other diagnoses are being considered. In such cases, a chest CT may indicate another diagnosis. The amount and distribution of emphysema can identify outcomes from lung volume reduction surgery, and chest CT scans are mandatory in assessment of patients for this surgery. Quantitative parameters from chest CT scans have been used to define longitudinal progression of disease. Assessment of patients with COPD for both clinical and research purposes should incorporate a variety of different outcomes. There are outcome measures that have been successfully incorporated in large clinical trials, and the design and outcomes of these trials can be used to plan future clinical investigations in COPD.