A sensitive and specific procedure for the simultaneous determination of dihydroergotamine (DHE) and its 8'-hydroxylated metabolite (8'-OH-DHE) in human plasma was developed and validated. The analytes were extracted from plasma samples by liquid-liquid extraction, separated through a Zorbax C18 column (50x2.1 mm I.D.) and detected by tandem mass spectrometry with an electrospray ionization interface. Caroverine was used as the internal standard. The method has a lower limit of quantitation (LOQ) of 10.0 and 11.0 pg/ml for DHE and 8'-OH-DHE, respectively. The intra- and inter-run precision was measured to be below 9.1% for both DHE and 8'-OH-DHE. The inter-run accuracy was within 4% for the analytes. The overall extraction recoveries of DHE and 8'-OH-DHE were determined to be about 58 and 52% on average, respectively. The chromatographic run time was approximately 2.5 min. More than 120 samples could be assayed daily with this method, including sample preparation, data acquisition and processing. The method developed was successfully used to investigate plasma concentrations of DHE and 8'-OH-DHE in a pharmacokinetic study of volunteers who received DHE orally.