The significance of complex chromosomal rearrangements presents a diagnostic dilemma. In the past, the use of G-banding coupled with fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) has been the standard approach. The recent development of spectral karyotyping (SKY) and multicolor FISH (M-FISH) has resulted in an increased accuracy of identification of marker or other complex chromosomal rearrangements. However, owing to the additional cost and time associated with SKY or M-FISH, and the restricted availability of such imaging facilities in many centers, it is not feasible to perform these procedures routinely on every sample. In addition, the identification of an aberration by SKY or M-FISH will often require confirmation by FISH. A practical approach is needed to take advantage of the complementary strengths of each method. In our center we utilize an algorithm that dictates the use of routine G-banding for the initial preliminary evaluation of a patient, followed by SKY characterization if marker chromosomes or complex translocations are detected by the G-banding analysis. According to this algorithm, FISH is used to verify the results once the origin of the abnormal chromosome has been determined by SKY. To demonstrate the effectiveness of this algorithm, we have analyzed both amniocyte and lymphocyte slides, using a combination of G-banding, SKY, and FISH. Our results confirm that an algorithm which selectively uses SKY or M-FISH will provide an efficient and improved method for pre- and post-natal chromosomal analysis.