The comparative effects on echocardiographically determined left ventricular (LV) mass and pulsed Doppler derived indexes of LV diastolic filling were studied in previously untreated hypertensive patients after 6 months of treatment with diltiazem 300 mg once daily (o.d.) (n = 16), and lisinopril 20 mg o.d. (n = 20). LV mass index decreased in the lisinopril group (from 98 to 96 g/m2; mean difference after 6 months of treatment with diltiazem-lisinopril was 13.7 g/m2 [95% confidence interval (CI) 0.8 to 26.6, p < 0.05]. In both groups diastolic filling parameters improved, but there was no statistically significant difference between the groups. Both treatment regimens showed a similar decrease in office and maximal exercise systolic blood pressure (SPB). Ambulatory daytime BP was lower after lisinopril treatment (from 147/96 to 126/83 mm Hg) than after diltiazem treatment (from 142/93 to 135/87 mm Hg); mean difference between diltiazem and lisinopril after 6 months of treatment was 9.7 (95% CI 3.4 to 16.0, p < 0.05)/9.4 (95% CI 2.5 to 16.3, p < 0.05) mm Hg. Nighttime BP decreased from 129/81 to 113/70 mm Hg in the lisinopril group, but not in the diltiazem group (from 125/79 to 122/77 mm Hg); mean difference between diltiazem and lisinopril after 6 months of treatment was 4.4 (95% CI - 0.2 to 8.9)/6.6 (95% CI 1.1 to 12.0) mm Hg. Changes in diastolic filling parameters were significantly correlated with changes in LV mass index in the lisinopril group, suggesting that the improvements in diastolic filling in the diltazem group may be partly due to an effect on factors other than LV mass.