The quality of life in patients with hypertension is considered to be impaired mainly by side effects of antihypertensive drug therapy. Since balloon angioplasty for renal artery stenosis has a medication-sparing effect, it may lead to an improvement in quality of life. The objective of the study is to compare the effect of antihypertensive drug therapy and balloon angioplasty on quality of life in patients with hypertension and renal artery stenosis. We compared the quality of life in 56 patients randomised to balloon angioplasty to that in 50 patients randomised to antihypertensive drug therapy after 3 and 12 months of follow-up. Quality of life was measured using a questionnaire on physical symptoms associated with hypertension and antihypertensive drugs, and two generic health questionnaires (MOS Survey and EuroQol instrument). After follow-up, the patients who underwent angioplasty used less antihypertensive drugs than the patients who were treated with antihypertensive drugs only (mean±s.d., 1.9±0.9 vs 2.5±1.0 drugs after 3 months, P=0.002). They reported similar physical complaints, however, and a similar quality of life. The results after 12 months of follow-up were the same. In conclusion, for patients with hypertension and renal artery stenosis, the decrease in antihypertensive medication after intervention is too small to lead to a detectable improvement in quality of life.