The histologic characteristics of air space enlargement with fibrosis (AEF) are compared with usual interstitial pneumonia (UIP), nonspecific interstitial pneumonia (NSIP) and centrilobular emphysema (CLE) to determine similarities and differences. Lung specimens from 39 patients were studied; 9 with AEF, 13 with UIP and 5 with CLE identified in lobectomy specimens for cancer and 12 NSIP cases identified on surgical lung biopsies. We determined the characteristics of cystic structures (i.e. abnormal airspace), degree of inflammation and severity of pneumocyte injury semi-quantitatively. In AEF, the wall thickness of the cystic lesions (0.8 mm) was thinner than in UIP (2.1 mm) and thicker than in CLE (0.07 mm). The degree of inflammation and granulation tissue were milder in AEF than in UIP and NSIP and CLE showed milder inflammatory cells than AEF. As for pneumocyte injury, AEF had fewer erosions (0.1/case) and fewer ubiquitin-positive pneumocytes than UIP (4.8 cells/slide) and NSIP (9.8 cells/slide). Our data suggested that the histological characteristics of AEF differed significantly from UIP, NSIP and CLE.