Trisomy 12 is the most common cytogenetic abnormality in chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), and a number of studies have suggested that it may be an adverse prognostic indicator. We have evaluated the usefulness of fluorescence in situ hybridization with a chromosome 12- specific probe as a simple means for detecting trisomy 12 in interphase cells. Forty cases of B-cell CLL previously studied with conventional cytogenetic techniques were analyzed with a biotinylated probe to the centromeric region of chromosome 12. Thirty of these retrospective cases could be reevaluated with in situ hybridization. Our analysis showed three hybridization signals (ie, trisomy 12) in interphase cells from seven of seven cases found previously to have trisomy 12. Trisomy 12 was also detected in five additional cases: in one case thought to have a normal karyotype, in two cases that had been inadequate for routine cytogenetic analysis, and in two cases that had been found to have an abnormal karyotype without trisomy 12. In a prospective series of 20 newly accrued CLL cases, all cases were analyzed successfully by in situ hybridization and six (30%) showed trisomy 12. We were able to perform the analysis on routinely prepared and previously Wright- stained peripheral blood smears. We conclude that fluorescence in situ hybridization is a simple means for the detection of trisomy 12 in CLL. The technique is more sensitive than conventional cytogenetic analysis and would be a useful tool in clinical studies.