BACKGROUND Hypertension is one the most common causes of chronic kidney disease (CKD). One of the major concerns in hypertensive patients is early detection of renal disorders. In the past, serum creatinine (Scr) concentration was used as a marker of kidney function, but it proffers a late reflection of reduced glomerular filtration rate. Cystatin C and neutrophil gelatinase-associated lipocalin (NGAL) have been recently proven to be useful for quantification of CKD. Therefore, we compared the diagnostic value of NGAL with cystatin C and creatinine to evaluate kidney function in hypertensive patients. METHODS In this study, 42 hypertensive patients and 30 healthy volunteers were recruited. Serum cystatin C (Scys C) and plasma NGAL were measured using ELISA method. Creatinine, urea, hemoglobin, fibrinogen, and C-reactive protein were measured according to the routine methods. Estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) was considered as the gold standard method (cut-off value of < 78 ml/min/1.73 m². RESULTS In the patient group, plasma NGAL, cystatin C, and creatinine were all significantly correlated with eGFR, and plasma NGAL correlated best with eGFR. Receiver-operating characteristics analysis indicated that plasma NGAL was a better indicator than creatinine and cystatin C for predicting a GFR < 78 ml/min/1.73 m2. The sensitivity and specificity for NGAL were 96% and 100%, for cystatin C were 92% and 60% and for creatinine were 76% and 47%, respectively. CONCLUSION Plasma NGAL demonstrated a higher diagnostic value to detect kidney impairment in the early stages of CKD as compared to Scys C and Scr in hypertensive patients.