Comparative genomic hybridisation (CGH) represents an alternative molecular-cytogenetic technique capable of detecting chromosomal imbalances by reverse fluorescence in situ hybridisation. As the technique uses genomic DNA for assessment it does not rely on metaphase chromosomes in the test material and thus circumvents technical problems associated with tissue culturing. In the present study, we applied CGH to identify chromosome anomalies in 60 spontaneous abortions of the first trimester, that had failed to grow in culture. In 57 out of 60 cases CGH analyses were successful. The overall aneuploidy rate detected was 72%. Trisomy was the predominant chromosome anomaly accounting for 68.0% of abnormal abortions, followed by triploidy (17.1%) and monosomy X (9.8%). An unbalanced structural rearrangement was found in one (2.4%) abortion. Most frequently involved in trisomies were chromosomes 16 (32.1%), 7 and 22 (10.7% each), 4, 13, 15, and 21 (7.2 % each). Three triploid cases and one complete mole were detected by microsatellite analysis as supplementary method. CGH data on culture failures were compared with data derived from 4693 successfully karyotyped first trimester spontaneous abortions, resulting in a chromosome aberration rate of 64.8%. The distribution of the different chromosome anomalies was similar with the exception of a higher rate of trisomies 7 and of XYY-triploidies in the culture failures. Based on our data we suggest that the genetic contribution to pregnancy loss is still underestimated. Investigating abortion tissues hitherto unassessed by conventional methods, we suggest that the contribution of chromosome aberrations to first trimester pregnancy loss is nearly 70%.