Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) and Becker muscular dystrophy (BMD) are common X-chromosomal recessive disorders caused by mutations in the dystrophin gene. Using the novel multiplex ligation-dependent probe amplification (MLPA) method we performed retrospective and prospective analyses in a total of 193 individuals. Deletions or duplications were identified in 14 out of 90 families previously tested negative by multiplex PCR or FISH analysis. Partially incorrect results were subsequently identified in two families: the loss of exon 38 signal in one case was due to a p.Q1802X nonsense mutation, whilst in another patient an apparent deletion of exon 37 (coinciding with a duplication of exons 46-53) was caused by a p.R1735C polymorphism. In one case we found a complex rearrangement involving a duplication of two regions: dupEX45-48 and dupEX54-55. We conclude that MLPA is a highly sensitive and rapid alternative to multiplex PCR. It can be used on blood samples, chorionic villi and paraffin-embedded tissue. The ease of detection of duplications and the application for female carrier analysis are clearly the main advantages of the method. However, apparent single exon deletions detected by MLPA should be checked by an independent method. Complex rearrangements such as double mutations on the same allele are rare.