Congenital lobar emphysema (CLE) is characterized by overdistension and air-trapping in the affected lobe, and is one of the causes of infantile respiratory distress. In this report, we review our 27 years of experience with 30 CLE patients. Patients' medical records were evaluated with regard to age, clinical presentation, diagnostic methods, associated diseases, treatment, histopathologic findings, and final clinical and laboratory findings at the end of a long-term period. The mean age of 30 patients (18 male) at diagnosis was 4.9 +/- 6.7 months (range, 2 days-2.5 years). Tachypnea, dyspnea, cough, cyanosis, wheezing, hoarseness, and decreased breath sounds on the affected side were the main symptoms and clinical findings. On chest X-rays, emphysema was seen in all patients; shift/herniation to the opposite lung, atelectasis, and pneumothorax were observed in 16, 5, and 2 cases, respectively. Computerized tomography of the thorax was performed in 16 cases and revealed emphysema at affected lobe/lobes in all, a shift/herniation to the opposite side in 12 cases, and atelectasis of neighbor lobe/lobes in 7 cases. All 8 patients who had perfusion scintigraphy showed reduced perfusion in the affected lobe. Narrowed and flaccid bronchi were detected in one patient by using flexible bronchoscopy. Blood gas analysis was performed in 11 patients, and hypoxia and hypercarbia were revealed in 9 and 7 of these patients, respectively. The most common affected lobe was the left upper lobe (57%), followed by the right upper lobe (30%) and right middle lobe (27%). Two lobes were involved in 4 patients. Associated abnormalities were observed in 5 patients. Twenty-one patients underwent lobectomy; 9 were followed conservatively. Ages at diagnosis were significantly younger in surgically treated patients. Emphysema was detected in all pathological specimens, with an additional bronchial cartilage deficiency in 2 patients. In the surgically treated group, 2 patients died and 2 patients were lost to follow-up. In the conservatively treated group, one patient was lost to follow-up. Mean follow-up duration of all patients was 63.2 +/- 56.2 months (range, 1-209 months). At follow-up visits, all patients were doing well. In surgically treated patients, chest X-rays were normal (9 cases), or showed hyperlucency on the operated side (6 cases) or chronic changes in the operation area (2 cases). Hyperexpansion in the affected lobe was found to be reduced in all cases in the conservatively treated group.