Four methods to quantify induced emphysema, in a manner economically applicable to large numbers of animals, are compared by correlation analyses. Lung tissue used was from rats pretreated intratracheally with elastase or saline prior to exposure to air or (NH4)2SO4 or NH4NO3 aerosols. The most sensitive quantitative evaluation was from mean chord length (MCL) measurements on scanning electron micrographs (SEM). Four-corner and parallel-line grids provided similar results, and reducing sample size to one selected field per lobe yielded a high degree of reliability for MCL measurements. Alveolar-pore perimeter and area (also measured on SEM photographs) were increased by induced emphysema, but were not reliable indicators for degree of pulmonary involvement. Both subjective score (grading the degree of emphysema) and percentage-area-affected determinations indicated the presence of emphysema, but with less sensitivity than MCL measurements. However, these two subgross methods (performed with a dissecting microscope) provided valuable information on the distribution of pulmonary lesions; emphysema was induced in a non-uniform but consistent and progressive pattern in the two lobes of the lung studied. (Copyright (c) 1984 by Academic Press, Inc.).