BACKGROUND: The peak flowmeter is very useful in monitoring of out-patients as well as those in emergency departments because of its convenience and simplicity with low cost. There have been many studies aimed at determining the accuracy and reproducibility of the peak flow meter in normal population. However, there is a paucity of reports regarding its accuracy in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease(COPD) or asthma. The accuracy of the peak expiratory flow(PEF) measured with a mini-Wright peak flowmeter was assessed by a comparison with the results of a mass flow sensor. METHODS: The PEF measurements were performed in 108 patients aged 19-82 years presenting with either a chronic obstructive lung disease or asthma before and after inhaling salbutamol. The PEF measurements from the mini-Wright flowmeter were compared with those obtained by the calibrated mass flow sensor. RESULTS: The average of the readings taken by the mini-Wright meter were 37-39 l/min higher than those taken by the mass flow sensor. The average percentage error of the mini-Wright meter were higher, ranging less than 300 l/min. The mean of the differences between the values obtained using both instruments (the bias)±limits of agreement(±2 SD) were 37.1±90 l/min for the PEF(p<0.001). CONCLUSIONS: The mini-Wright peak flowmeter overestimated the flows in patients with COPD or asthma. It was also found that the accuracy of the mini-Wright peak flowmeter decreased in its mid to low range. The limits of agreement are wide and the difference between the two instruments is signigicant. Therefore, the measurements made between the two types of machines in patients with asthma or COPD cannot be used in terchangeably.