Abstract An analytical method for the simultaneous determination of imipramine (IMI) and its N-desmethyl metabolite, desipramine (DIMI) in human plasma by capillary gas chromatography–mass selective detection (GC–MS), with D4-imipramine (D4-IMI) and D4-desipramine (D4-DIMI) as internal standards, was developed and validated. After addition of the internal standards, the compounds were extracted from plasma at basic pH into n-heptane–isoamyl alcohol (99:1, v/v), back-extracted into acidic aqueous solution and re-extracted at basic pH into toluene. Desipramine and D4-desipramine were converted into their pentafluoropropionyl derivatives. The compounds were determined by gas chromatography using a mass selective detector at m/ z 234 for IMI, m/ z 238 for D4-IMI, m/ z 412 for DIMI and m/ z 416 for D4-DIMI. The method was applied to clinical samples.