Evans Blue Dye (EBD) is widely used to study cellular membrane permeability and has recently been utilised in mdx mice to identify permeable skeletal myofibres that have become damaged as a result of muscular dystrophy. EBD has the potential to be a useful vital stain of myofibre permeability in other models of skeletal muscle injury and membrane-associated fragility. The parameters for its use for such purposes were optimised in the present study. Of particular interest is the use of EBD to identify the onset of muscle damage. This study compared intravenous vs. intraperitoneal injection; tissue fixation; volume of EBD; time of availability in tissue; and persistence after injection in mdx mice (with endogenous muscle damage) and control mice. Satisfactory labelling of permeable myofibres was seen in frozen sections viewed with fluorescence microscopy when intraperitoneal injection of a 1% EBD solution injected at 1% volume relative to body mass was administered between 16 and 24 h prior to tissue sampling. EBD labelling was then assessed in three mouse models of experimental injury and repair - cut injury, whole muscle grafts, and exercise-induced muscle damage. These experiments demonstrated that (i) following a cut injury across myofibres, EBD penetrated up to 150 mum from the injury site over a 20-h period; (ii) EBD was present throughout myofibres of avascular whole muscle graft by one day after transplantation; and (iii) damaged myofibres were detected within 20 min after controlled lengthening-contraction exercise. This simple and inexpensive technique has sensitivity for the detection of increased myofibre permeability and/or sublethal damage that has advantages over other traditional histological techniques at the light microscopy level.