Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death and hospitalization in both sexes in nearly all countries of Europe. The main forms of cardiovascular disease are ischaemic heart disease and stroke. The magnitude of the problem contrasts with the shortage, weak quality and comparability of data available in most European countries.Innovations in medical, invasive and biological treatments have substantially contributed to the escalating costs of health services. It is therefore urgent to obtain reliable information on the magnitude and distribution of the disease for both adequate health planning (including preventive strategies) and clinical decision making with correct cost-benefit assessments.A stepwise surveillance procedure based on standardized data collection, appropriate record linkage and validation methods was set up by the EUROCISS Project (EUROpean Cardiovascular Indicators Surveillance Set) to build up comparable and reliable indicators (attack rate and case fatality) for the surveillance of acute myocardial infarction/acute coronary syndrome at population level.This manual of operations is intended for health professionals and policy makers and provides a standardized and simple model for the implementation of a population-based register. It recommends to start from a minimum data set and then follow a stepwise procedure.Before implementing a population-based register, it is important to identify the target population under surveillance which should preferably cover a well-defined geographical and administrative area or region representative of the whole country for which population data and vital statistics (mortality and hospital discharge records at minimum) are routinely collected and easily available each year. All cases among residents should be recorded even if the case occurs outside the area. Validation of a sample of fatal and nonfatal events is mandatory.