This study characterized the additional chromosomal abnormalities (ACA) associated with 11q23 rearrangements in 450 infants and children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and examined the impact of these ACA on survival. Overall, 213 (47%) cases had ACA but the incidence varied according to patient age and 11q23 subgroup. Infants and patients with t(4;11)(q21;q23) had the lowest incidence of ACA (50/182 (27%) and 57/216 (26%) respectively), whereas patients with del(11)(q23) had the highest incidence (66/93 (71%)). Del(11)(q23) abnormalities were heterogeneous and occasionally secondary to t(9;22)(q34;q11.2). Thus, patients with del(11)(q23) comprised a separate biological entity, which was clearly distinct from those with an 11q23 translocation. The most frequent specific ACA were trisomy X (n=38), abnormal 12p (n=32), abnormal 9p (n=28) and del(6q) (n=19). The presence of ACA did not change the 5 year event-free survival estimates among children (56% (95% CI 46-65%) vs 62% (54-69%)) or infants (22% (15-29%) vs 18% (9-29%)), nor when the different 11q23 subgroups were analyzed separately. This study has conclusively demonstrated that there is no prognostic effect of secondary chromosomal changes in association with 11q23 abnormalities in childhood ALL. However, characterization of these ACA is important to determine their potential role in initiation of MLL driven leukemogenesis. © 2005 Nature Publishing Group. All rights reserved.