The purpose of our randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover study in 15 patients with chronic progressive external ophthalmoplegia (CPEO) or Kearns-Sayre syndrome (KSS) because of single large-scale mitochondrial (mt) DNA deletions was to determine whether oral creatine (Cr) monohydrate can improve skeletal muscle energy metabolism in vivo. Each treatment phase with Cr in a dosage of 150 mg/kg body weight/day or placebo lasted 6 weeks. The effect of Cr was estimated by phosphorus-31 magnetic resonance spectroscopy ((31)P-MRS), clinical and laboratory tests. (31)P-MRS analysis prior to treatment showed clear evidence of severe mitochondrial dysfunction. However, there were no relevant changes in (31)P-MRS parameters under Cr. In particular, phosphocreatine (PCr)/ATP at rest did not increase, and there was no facilitation of post-exercise PCr recovery. Clinical scores and laboratory tests did not alter significantly under Cr, which was tolerated without major side-effects in all patients. Cr supplementation did not improve skeletal muscle oxidative phosphorylation in our series of patients. However, one explanation for our negative findings may be the short study duration or the limited number of patients included.