Computed tomographic (CT) scans and magnetic resonance (MR) images in 103 patients with either a deep-lobe parotid tumor extending into the parapharyngeal space, a minor salivary gland tumor, a neuroma, or a paraganglioma were reviewed. The parotid or extraparotid nature of these masses was established by identifying a fat plane between the mass and the parotid gland. This was more reliably accomplished with MR imaging than with CT. Although dynamic CT allowed identification of the glomus tumors, MR imaging also permitted diagnosis of these lesions. The inherent CT and MR imaging characteristics of most of the neuromas and minor salivary gland tumors were indistinguishable. However, the neuromas tended to displace the internal carotid artery anteriorly, whereas the salivary lesions displaced this vessel posteriorly. This artery was better identified on MR images than on CT scans. Thus, these lesions, which are the four most common primary parapharyngeal space tumors, can be distinguished on MR images by evaluating not only their inherent signal characteristics but also the surrounding fat planes and any displacement of the internal carotid artery.