In an attempt to elucidate the origin of the so-called idiopathic spontaneous pneumothorax (ISP), clinical examination, pulmonary function tests, and computed tomography (CT) with visual quantification and density analysis were performed in 20 young patients two months after an ISP episode. Twenty controls were recruited for CT. The chest roentgenograms were normal in the two groups. The results indicated the presence of various types of emphysematous lesions (EL) in the ISP group located predominantly in the apical fields with subpleural location in 16 patients. Interestingly, diffuse but moderate centrilobular emphysema was noted in 12 of 20 patients. The EL visual quantification was always less than 5 percent of the CT slices' total areas. The lung mean density shifted significantly toward the air density in the patient group (patients: -743 +/- 57.5 HU vs controls -713 +/- 59.5 HU, p less than 0.01). These findings suggest that CT may be useful for early assessment of EL in patients with ISP.