The size and molecular composition of circulating immune complexes depend on various factors, including the concentrations and valences of antigens and antibodies and the antigen-antibody ratio. The composition and biological properties of circulating immune complexes, in turn, influence their fate in vivo as well as the likelihood of their detection by various assays. Several assays clearly detect circulating immune complexes, but no single assay has yet been shown to be the most sensitive and the most specific for the entire spectrum of circulating immune complexes. Assays correlate poorly with each other, but this may be desirable if we are to determine which circulating immune complexes have diagnostic, prognostic, or pathogenic importance. Circulating immune complexes are found in numerous rheumatologic disorders and infectious diseases. Their presence in the circulation statistically correlates with disease activity; however, the assays currently used have limited value for diagnosing or aiding in therapeutic decisions. Nevertheless, the future holds promise for such uses.