We describe an accurate procedure for a rapid diagnosis of heteroplasmic mtDNA deletions based on the polymerase chain reaction (PCR). For a selective amplification of deleted mtDNA across the breakpoints of the deletion, we used seven combinations of primers surrounding the most common deleted region between the two origins of mtDNA replication. This procedure was performed on muscle biopsies of twenty patients harboring a single mtDNA deletion and one patient with multiple mtDNA deletions. The results were compared with Southern-blotting analysis. We conclude that this PCR procedure is a sensitive and convenient screening method for the detection of mtDNA deletions.