INTRODUCTION: It has been estimated that cytogenetically visible rearrangements are present in approximately 1 of newborns. These chromosomal changes can cause a wide range of deleterious developmental effects, including mental retardation (MR). It is assumed that many other cases exist where the cause is a submicroscopic deletion or duplication. To facilitate the detection of such cases, different techniques have been developed, which have differing efficiency as to the number of loci and patients that can be tested. METHODS: We implemented multiplex amplifiable probe hybridisation (MAPH) to test areas known to be rearranged in MR patients (for example, subtelomeric/pericentromeric regions and those affected in microdeletion syndromes) and to look for new regions that might be related to MR. RESULTS: In this study, over 30 000 screens for duplications and deletions were carried out; 162 different loci tested in each of 188 developmentally delayed patients. The analysis resulted in the detection of 19 rearrangements, of which approximately 65 would not have been detected by conventional cytogenetic analysis. A significant fraction (46 ) of the rearrangements found were interstitial, despite the fact that only a limited number of these loci have so far been tested. DISCUSSION: Our results strengthen the arguments for whole genome screening within this population, as it can be assumed that many more interstitial rearrangements would be detected. The strengths of MAPH for this analysis are the simplicity, the high throughput potential, and the high resolution of analysis. This combination should help in the future identification of the specific genes that are responsible for MR.