Purpose. To investigate the use of a chemical shift-based water-fat separation magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) method, and time-resolved contrast-enhanced MRI at 3 T for improved presurgical localization of parathyroid adenomas. Methods. Twenty-five patients with primary hyperparathyroidism were prospectively enrolled. Patients underwent MRI, which was reviewed by two experienced neuroradiologists who were blinded to Tc-99m sestamibi imaging and operative results. Results. Overall, MRI detected 16 adenomas in 25 patients (sensitivity 64%, positive predictive value 67%), while sestamibi detected 18 of 25 adenomas (sensitivity 72%, positive predictive value 90%). Importantly, MRI was able to detect adenomas in four (57%) of the seven patients whose disease was missed by sestamibi analysis. MRI demonstrated excellent image quality and fat suppression by using a chemical shift-based water-fat separation technique. The time-resolved MRI was considered to be less helpful, although in some cases it was indispensable. Conclusions. MRI is an excellent adjunct for preoperative parathyroid localization. The advent of improved fat suppression techniques in the neck, including chemical shift- based water-fat separation, is critical to its utility. Although time-resolved MRI was not always helpful, it was crucial in certain cases. It may prove to be more useful with the development of faster scanning techniques. © Society of Surgical Oncology 2011.