Magnetic resonance (MR) imaging characteristics of 40 tumors involving the parapharyngeal space and the upper part of the neck were reviewed. These lesions could be classified as being either hypervascular (glomus tumors or metastatic kidney, thyroid, or venous hemangiomas) or hypovascular (salivary gland tumors, neurogenic tumors, lymphomas, sarcomas). Detailed analysis of the contour of the neoplasm combined with clinical findings allowed further refinement of the differential diagnosis in each category. Most lesions had an intermediate signal intensity on T1-weighted images and a fairly high signal intensity on T2-weighted images. Hypervascular tumors had a number of "channel voids" caused by high-flow vessels on T1- and T2-weighted images, and on T2-weighted images there were areas of high signal intensity, presumably due to sites of slow flow within the image plane. The hypovascular lesions were quite homogeneous, and it was therefore more difficult to differentiate among the neoplasms in this group.