Clonal chromosome abnormalities can be detected in approximately 50% of patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). The most common changes are trisomy 12, followed by structural abnormalities of 13q, 11q, 6q, and 14q. By fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH), these aberrations can be demonstrated even in cases with insufficient mitotic yield or a normal karyotype. The biologic consequences of trisomy 12 are unknown, but a gene dosage effect is suspected and studies on partial trisomy 12 indicate that the region 12q13 to 12q22 might be of particular pathogenetic importance. Trisomy 12 is strongly associated with atypical lymphocyte morphology and seems to be a secondary event in leukemogenesis, as shown by combined immunophenotyping and interphase FISH. Structural abnormalities of 13q frequently involve hetero- and homozygous deletions of a region in 13q14, distal to the retinoblastoma gene, which may be the site of a tumor suppressor gene. In contrast to a normal karyotype or structural changes of 13q, complex karyotypic abnormalities, high percentage of abnormal metaphases, trisomy 12 and structural changes involving the P53 tumor suppressor gene on 17p13 are adverse prognostic indicators. Cytogenetic and molecular findings provide important diagnostic, clinical, and prognostic information which can contribute to treatment decisions and follow-up of CLL patients.