Background: Several studies have demonstrated that array comparative genomic hybridisation (CGH) for genome-wide imbalance provides a substantial increase in diagnostic yield for patients traditionally referred for karyotyping by G-banded chromosome analysis. The purpose of this study was to demonstrate the feasibility of and strategies for, the use of array CGH in place of karyotyping for genome imbalance, and to report on the results of the implementation of this approach.
Results: Following a validation period, an oligoarray platform was chosen. In order to minimise costs and increase efficiency, a patient/patient hybridisation strategy was used, and analysis criteria were set to optimise detection of pathogenic imbalance. A customised database application with direct links to a number of online resources was developed to allow efficient management and tracking of patient samples and facilitate interpretation of results. Following introduction into our routine diagnostic service for patients with suspected genome imbalance, array CGH as a follow-on test for patients with normal karyotypes (n = 1245) and as a first-line test (n = 1169) gave imbalance detection rates of 26% and 22% respectively (excluding common, benign variants). At least 89% of the abnormalities detected by first line testing would not have been detected by standard karyotype analysis. The average reporting time for first-line tests was 25 days from receipt of sample.
Conclusions: Array CGH can be used in a diagnostic service setting in place of G-banded chromosome analysis, providing a more comprehensive and objective test for patients with suspected genome imbalance. The increase in consumable costs can be minimised by employing appropriate hybridisation strategies; the use of robotics and a customised database application to process multiple samples reduces staffing costs and streamlines analysis, interpretation and reporting of results. Array CGH provides a substantially higher diagnostic yield than G-banded chromosome analysis, thereby alleviating the burden of further clinical investigations.