Rilmenidine is an alpha 2 adrenoreceptor agonist used in the treatment of mild and moderate hypertension. In this study, a fast and accurate liquid chromatographic method with tandem mass spectrometric detection has been validated in order to assure quantification of rilmenidine in human serum. The fragmentation pathway of protonated rilmenidine was studied using high-resolution mass spectrometry (HRMS). This study compared selectivity, linearity, accuracy, precision, extraction efficiency, matrix effect and sensitivity using common liquid–liquid extraction (LLE) and solid-phase extraction (SPE) procedures. The limit of quantitation for both extraction techniques was 0.1 ng/ml. Several differences between the LLE and SPE have been observed in terms of linearity, accuracy, precision and matrix effect. Additionally, the advantages of SPE included less manual work load and increased recovery of rilmenidine in human serum to approximately 80% (LLE, 57%). The developed method involving SPE was found to be accurate (relative error (RE) < 5%), reproducible (relative standard deviation, RSD < 7%), robust and suitable for quantitative analysis of rilmenidine in serum samples obtained from patients under antihypertensive treatment. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.