Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) and pulmonary emphysema (PE) have distinct clinical and pathological characteristics, and have been considered to be separate disorders. However, recent animal experiments have suggested that, with regard to their pathogenesis, the diseases have some features in common. However, there are no clinical data supporting this hypothesis. We report here 9 patients (all male, 67 +/- 2 years, mean +/- SE) who had PE followed by IPF. They were found among 152 PE patients who came to Tohoku University Hospital during the past 15 years (1976-1991). All patients were male and heavy smokers and 2 patients also had prostate cancer and gastric cancer, respectively. Three patients were alive during this study and had been diagnosed as having IPF and PE by the combination of transbronchial biopsy, selective alveolobronchogram, CT examination and lung function tests. The diagnosis of IPF and PE in the other patients was based on the pathological findings of autopsied lungs in addition to clinical findings. All patients showed PE mainly in the upper lobes and IPF in the lower lobes. In all patients, in addition to all known causes of pulmonary fibrosis, the possibilities that chronic or recurrent infections in PE induced pulmonary fibrosis and that IPF produced emphysematous changes were carefully excluded by medical records and pathological findings. It is not clear whether the occurrence of emphysema and pulmonary fibrosis in these cases is coincidental, or whether the two diseases are linked by a common pathogenetic pathway.