Allele-specific molecular diagnosis of Duchenne and Becker muscular dystrophies (DMD and BMD) has been largely dependent upon muscle biopsy for dystrophin protein assay. We performed lymphocyte DNA mutation analysis by polymerase chain reaction on 14 boys presenting with a clinical picture compatible with DMD or BMD. DNA analysis revealed that 12 of 14 boys had a deletion of the dystrophin gene, thus establishing the diagnosis of DMD/BMD. Furthermore, genotypes for 9 of 12 deletion patients permitted prediction of the specific allelic disorder (i.e., DMD or BMD). Subsequent dystrophin testing confirmed all of the DNA-based diagnoses. We propose that DNA mutation analysis be included in the initial evaluation of patients suspected of having DMD/BMD, thus potentially eliminating the need for muscle biopsy in the majority of patients. © 1992.