In April 1997, the main chlamydia laboratory in Glasgow introduced ligase chain reaction (LCR) as its standard diagnostic test. The diagnostic effectiveness and health economic impact of introduction of LCR testing was assessed. Between April 1996 to March 2000, results of all chlamydia detection tests on genital specimens sent from general practitioners and the two main sexual healthcare providers (Genitourinary Medicine and Family Planning services) were reviewed. A preliminary economic assessment, inclusive of staff, reagents, consumables and laboratory overheads was conducted. Overall, testing activity increased four and a half times between 1996-97 and 1999-2000; the proportionate rise was greatest in general practice. Although chlamydia testing in both genders increased over the review period, testing activity rose disproportionately in women (59%, compared with a 31% increase in men). The overall Chlamydia trachomatis detection rate rose from 4.8% in 1996-97 to 7.8% in 1999-2000. Following introduction of LCR testing, an estimated additional 331 men and 844 women were diagnosed during the study period. The cost per additional diagnosis made was estimated at 162 Pounds for men and 263 Pounds for women. Substantial health gains are likely to be achieved, at both an individual and public health level, as a result of introduction of LCR testing for genital chlamydial infection.