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Computed tomography provides a sensitive method for investigating skeletal muscle changes in neuromuscular diseases, but this method has not been applied to mitochondrial myopathies. We characterized the pattern of muscle involvement in patients with the 3243A>G mutation in mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), the common MELAS (mitochondrial myopathy, encephalopathy, lactic acidosis and stroke-like episodes) mutation. Twenty-four patients, age 19-73 years, with 3243A>G were examined. Clinical evaluation included assessment of muscle strength and functional capacity. All the patients underwent muscle computed tomography, and muscle samples from 17 of them were examined for the presence of ragged red fibres and for the 3243A>G heteroplasmy. Venous blood lactate at rest and serum creatine kinase were determined. Clinical myopathy was found in six patients, while nine showed mild muscle weakness and nine had normal muscle function. The upper and lower limbs were equally affected, but the proximal muscles were more severely affected than the distal ones. CT revealed abnormalities in the muscles of 13 patients (54%; 95% confidence interval, 33-76%), including the six with clinical myopathy and seven without clinical myopathy. Myopathic changes were found most frequently in the pelvic muscles, with predominant involvement of the gluteus maximus. These data show that CT reveals frequent abnormal findings in the muscle of patients with the 3243A>G mtDNA mutation.Muscle CT is a useful adjunct to clinical evaluation in these patients.