Percutaneous transluminal angioplasty (PTA) for ostial atherosclerotic renal-artery stenosis has poor results. Angioplasty with stent placement (PTAS) may be more effective. We undertook a randomised prospective study to compare PTA with PTAS in patients with ostial atherosclerotic renal-artery stenosis. Patients with ostial atherosclerotic renal-artery stenosis were assigned to receive PTA or PTAS. Secondary PTAS was allowed if PTA failed immediately or during 6 months' follow-up. Analysis was by intention to treat. 42 patients were assigned PTA and 43 were assigned PTAS, but one patient in the PTAS group was excluded from the study. Primary success rate (<50% residual stenosis) of PTA was 57% (24 patients) compared with 88% (37 patients) for PTAS (difference between groups 31% [95% CI 12-50]). Complications were similar. At 6 months, the primary patency rate was 29% (12 patients) for PTA, and 75% (30 patients) for PTAS (46% [24-68]). Restenosis after a successful primary procedure occurred in 48% of patients for PTA and 14% for PTAS (34% [11-58]). 12 patients underwent secondary stenting for primary or late failure of PTA within the follow-up period: success was similar to that of primary PTAS. Evaluation based on intention to treat showed no difference in clinical results at six months for PTA or PTAS. PTAS is a better technique than PTA to achieve vessel patency in ostial atherosclerotic renal-artery stenosis. Primary PTAS and primary PTA plus PTAS as rescue therapy have similar outcomes. However, the burden of reintervention after PTA outweighs the potential saving in stents, so primary PTAS is a better approach to use.