Exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) determine disease-associated morbidity, mortality, resource burden and healthcare costs. Acute exacerbation care requirements range from unscheduled primary care visits to emergency room, inpatient or intensive care, generating significant costs in COPD. Even after an exacerbation resolves, respiratory, physical, social and emotional impairment may persist for prolonged time. Frequent exacerbations, mainly in patients with severe COPD, accelerate disease progression and mortality. Thus, patients with frequent exacerbations have a more rapid decline in lung function, worse quality of life and decreased exercise performance. Management of COPD directed to reduce incidence and severity of exacerbations improves long-term health status and conserves health care resources and costs.