One hundred and eight examinations on 103 patients with suspected disease of the salivary glands were studied using a 0.08 T resistive magnet and inversion-recovery pulse sequences. Sixty-eight patients who had a mass lesion within a salivary gland later had surgery, and specimens were obtained for histological diagnosis. The remaining 35 patients were diagnosed on clinical grounds. In all cases the clinical findings were compared with the appearances on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The use of inversion-recovery pulse sequences allowed accurate localization of all tumour masses and, because of the clarity with which blood vessels were displayed, the precise relationship of any parotid mass to the retromandibular vessels and hence the facial nerve was possible. Whilst MRI did not display any pathognomonic features to allow the differentiation of malignant cell types or the differentiation of invasive malignant tumours from chronic inflammatory disease, it was possible to differentiate parotitis from Mikulicz's disease and to diagnose cysts and pleomorphic adenomas by their appearances on MRI.