This study was to determine if the diameters of pulmonary arteries measured from computed tomographic (CT) scans could be used 1) as indicators of pulmonary artery hypertension and 2) as a reliable base for calculating mean pulmonary artery pressure. The diameters of the main, left, proximal right, distal right, interlobar, and left descending pulmonary arteries were measured from CT scans in 32 patients with cardiopulmonary disease and in 26 age- and sex-matched control subjects. Diameters were measured using a special computer program that could display a CT density profile of the artery and its adjacent tissues. The upper limit of normal diameter for the main pulmonary artery was found to be 28.6 mm (mean + 2 SD). In the patient group, the diameters were correlated with data from cardiac catheterization. In these patients, a diameter of the main pulmonary artery above 28.6 mm readily predicted the presence of pulmonary hypertension. The calculated cross-sectional areas of the main and interlobar pulmonary arteries (normalized for body surface area [BAS]) were found to give the best estimates of mean pulmonary artery pressure (r = 0.89, P less than 0.001 and r = 0.66, P less than 0.001). Multiple regression analysis gave the useful equation: mean pulmonary artery pressure = -10.92 + 0.07646 X area of main pulmonary artery/BSA + 0.08084 X area of the right interlobar pulmonary artery/BSA (r = 0.93, P less than 0.0001). Because CT allows precise, noninvasive measurement of the diameter of pulmonary arteries, it can be of value in detecting pulmonary hypertension and estimating mean pulmonary artery pressure.