To examine the changes in airways in bronchial asthma (BA) during an asthma attack causing death, we performed morphometric analysis of autopsied lungs from three outpatients who died of severe acute asthma attacks (group A) and compared these to five patients who died of non-status asthmaticus (group B). Controls (group NL) were four patients who died of diseases other than respiratory disorders. Area proportions of bronchial glands to bronchial wall (gland [percent]) and of goblet cells to total epithelial layer (goblet [percent]) and the intraluminal amount of mucus in the airways (MOR) were measured in a paraffin section. There were no significant differences in age, sex, smoking history, duration of BA history, and dosage of glucocorticoids received between groups A and B. Although both groups A and B showed significantly larger values of gland (percent) in the central airways and of inflammatory cell numbers in the airway walls than did group NL, no significant differences were observed between groups A and B. In contrast, markedly significant increases in goblet (percent) and in MOR were observed in group A compared to groups B and NL. These increases in group A were more dominant in the peripheral airway: 30-fold and threefold increases of group B in goblet (percent) and MOR, respectively. Furthermore, MOR significantly correlated with goblet (percent) in the peripheral airways (p less than 0.05). These findings suggest that a marked increase in goblet cells of the airways is a feature characteristic of patients with BA who die of a severe acute attack.