The exact site of airway narrowing in asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is unknown. High-resolution computed tomography (HRCT) is a sensitive noninvasive imaging technique that can be used to measure airway dimensions. After determining the optimal computed tomographic parameters using a phantom, we measured lobe volume and airway dimensions of isolated canine lung lobes at a transpulmonary pressure of 25 cmH2O. These measurements were repeated after deflation and administration of aerosolized saline and carbachol (256 mg/ml). Lobe volume decreased with all treatments. The maximal lobar volume change was 26% at 6 cmH2O after carbachol. Average airway lumen area decreased with all treatments. After carbachol, at transpulmonary pressures of 25, 15, 10, 8, and 6 cmH2O, lumen area decreased by 7.3 +/- 4.1, 62.0 +/- 4.9, 77.5 +/- 3.0, 31.9 +/- 9.0, and 95.2 +/- 1.0% (SE), respectively. When the airways were divided into four categories on the basis of initial lumen diameter (less than 2, 2-4, 4-6, and greater than 6 mm), the greatest decreases in luminal area after carbachol were seen in intermediate-sized airways (2-4 mm, 56 +/- 4%; 4-6 mm, 59 +/- 3%). HRCT can be used to make accurate measurements of airway dimensions and airway narrowing in excised lungs. HRCT may allow measurement of airway wall thickness and determination of the site of airway narrowing in asthma.