Cytogenetics has a strong prognostic value in childhood acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL), but results are often incomplete because of the poor chromosome morphology. To improve this analysis, we tested comparative genomic hybridization (CGH) for the detection of chromosomal imbalances. 72 children were retrospectively analysed using CGH. Only 53% of the patients had been fully banded by standard methods. With CGH, 36 patients retained a normal chromosomal profile and 36 had unbalanced abnormalities. No amplification was detected. Fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) with centromeric and unique sequence probes was used in those cases with discrepancies or unsuccessful karyotype to validate CGH results. CGH enabled clear identification of unbalanced chromosomal abnormalities, even in some cases which had a normal karyotype. In view of the strong prognostic value of hyperdiploidy in childhood ALL, CGH appears to be a powerful technique, complementary to conventional cytogenetics.