Ploidy status and chromosomal aberrations involving chromosome 13q and the immunoglobulin heavy chain locus (IgH) are important prognostic features in multiple myeloma (MM). However, conventional cytogenetic studies are often not reveling and determination of plasma cells (PC) ploidy status in MM is technically difficult. We have used a combined cell morphology and interphase FISH (I-FISH) analysis in 184 consecutive BM samples from 136 MM patients for the diagnosis of chromosome 13q deletion [del (13q)] and IgH abnormalities. We have found a high prevalence (37%) of near-tetraploid (NT) PC in the BM samples studied. NT status of PC was verified with DNA index (DI) measurements. del (13q) was found in 69% and a total absence of one IgH copy (loss of IgH) in 20% of NT samples. We have shown that the presence of del (13q) and loss of IgH can be masked in NT cases: in 12 NT samples originally identified as normal for del (13q) the abnormality was obscured in the majority of plasma cells due to the presence of NT. Similarly, loss of IgH was masked in four samples with a large population of NT cells. Moreover, in one case the appearance of a 100% tetraploidy during disease progression masked the presence of del (13q), originally present, and could therefore falsely appear as disappearance of this prognostic marker. In conclusion, we have shown that a combination of three abnormalities, i.e., del (13q), loss of IgH and NT, all of potential prognostic significance, can be overlooked unless NT is specifically searched for and ruled out. Therefore, we suggest that a search for NT should be added to the routine BM assessment in MM patients.