Cytogenetic analysis has an essential role in diagnosis, classification, and prognosis of myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS). Some cytogenetic abnormalities are sufficiently characteristic of MDS to be considered MDS defining in the appropriate clinical context. MDS with isolated del(5q) is the only molecularly defined MDS subtype. The genes responsible for many aspects of 5q- syndrome, the distinct clinical phenotype associated with this condition, have now been identified. Cytogenetics forms the cornerstone of the most widely adopted prognostic scoring systems in MDS, the international prognostic scoring system (IPSS) and the revised international prognostic scoring system (IPPS-R). Cytogenetic parameters also have utility in chronic myelomonocytic leukemia (CMML) and have been incorporated into specific prognostic scoring systems for this condition. More recently, it has been appreciated that submicroscopic copy number changes and gene mutations play a significant part in MDS pathogenesis. Integration of molecular genetics and cytogenetics holds much promise for improving clinical care and outcomes for patients with MDS.