Copy number variation (CNV) analysis has had a major impact on the field of medical genetics, providing a mechanism to identify disease-causing genomic alterations in an unprecedented number of diseases and phenotypes. CNV analysis is now routinely used in the clinical diagnostic laboratory, and has led to a significant increase in the detection of chromosomal abnormalities. These findings are used for prenatal decision making, clinical management and genetic counseling. Although a powerful tool to identify genomic alterations, CNV analysis may also result in the detection of genomic alterations that have unknown clinical significance or reveal unintended information. This highlights the importance of informed consent and genetic counseling for clinical CNV analysis. This review examines the advantages and limitations of CNV discovery in the clinical diagnostic laboratory, as well as the impact on the clinician and family.