Leigh syndrome is a common clinical manifestation in children with mitochondrial disease and other types of inborn errors of metabolism. We characterised clinical symptoms, prognosis, respiratory chain function and performed extensive genetic analysis of 25 Swedish children suffering from Leigh syndrome with the aim to obtain insights into the molecular pathophysiology and to provide a rationale for genetic counselling. We reviewed the clinical history of all patients and used muscle biopsies in order to perform molecular, biochemical and genetic investigations, including sequencing the entire mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), the mitochondrial DNA polymerase (POLGA) gene and the surfeit locus protein 1 (SURF1) gene. Respiratory chain enzyme activity measurements identified five patients with isolated complex I deficiency and five with combined enzyme deficiencies. No patient presented with isolated complex IV deficiency. Seven patients had a decreased ATP production rate. Extensive sequence analysis identified eight patients with pathogenic mtDNA mutations and one patient with mutations in POLGA. Mutations of mtDNA are a common cause of LS and mtDNA analysis should always be included in the diagnosis of LS patients, whereas SURF1 mutations are not a common cause of LS in Sweden. Unexpectedly, age of onset, clinical symptoms and prognosis did not reveal any clear differences in LS patients with mtDNA or nuclear DNA mutations.