The rates of allogeneic stem cell transplantation (SCT) to treat the myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) is continually increasing. However, given the growing arsenal of therapeutic options in parallel to deeper insight into the heterogeneity of this disorder, determining the indications for SCT in MDS remains a difficult task. The International Prognostic Scoring System (IPSS) serves as a guideline for therapeutic decisions, but many aspects (eg, interpretation of rare cytogenetic abnormalities, combinations of chromosomal alterations and/or molecular markers, variant clinical courses within distinct biological subgroups) remain the subject of continuous investigation. In an effort to achieve a more well-differentiated risk categorization, attempts have been made to perform a more detailed cytogenetic categorization, and the use of various fluorescein in situ hybridization (FISH) techniques has improved the description of aberrations. Multicenter initiatives have standardized multiparameter flow cytometry techniques for diagnosis of MDS. In advanced MDS, screening for molecular mutations can identify cases with a high transformation risk. Finally, the new World Health Organization classification system provides a more homogenous morphological categorization of MDS compared with the former French-American-British system. Consequently, in the near future, risk stratification in MDS might incorporate additional diagnostic tools and categorization systems aimed at improving the timing and indication for SCT in this complex disorder.