Breast MRI

What is a Breast MRI?

Breast MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) is a procedure which, like all MRI procedures, uses magnetic fields and radio waves. These are processed through a computer to produce a detailed cross-sectional picture of the breasts.

MRI does not use radiation of any kind. The magnetic fields and radio waves are not known to be harmful in any way and an MRI is a painless procedure.

MRI is one of the most advanced diagnostic imaging tools available to doctors today. Breast MRI is a technology that complements mammography and stereotactic breast biopsy and may be used to locate, define and/or confirm metastasis. It does not replace routine mammography, breast self-examination (BSE), physician check-ups, or biopsy of the breast. Breast MRI is also used to determine leakage or ruptures of breast implants.

Preparing for a Breast MRI:

Breast MRI itself takes about one hour. When you arrive for your exam, you will be asked to fill out a brief medical history questionnaire. The technologist performing the MRI will review this information with you and answer any questions you may have. Be sure to let the technologist know if you are pregnant, nursing, or if you have had a previous breast biopsy.

You will be asked to change into a gown. Metallic items interfere with the images, so they must be removed. These include jewelry, glasses, hearing aids, hair clips, pins and charge cards. You will be able to lock these in a safe area.

During the Exam:

The MRI scanner resembles a short tube that is open at both ends. You will be asked to lie on your stomach on a cushioned exam table and the technologist will help position you correctly. Even though your physician may only ask for an MRI exam of one breast, both breasts are routinely scanned. While your are lying on your stomach, both breasts will be positioned in a concave area of the table. This area contains the “breast coil” which will create the images of the breasts. The table you are on will slide into the scanner for the exam.

If you are having a breast MRI exam to provide more information about a questionable area of tissue, then an injection of “contrast media” will be given in your arm. This injection will enhance the visibility of breast tissue to help in the radiologist’s interpretation of your films. If you are having a breast MRI exam to check on an implant, an injection is not necessary.

You will need to remain as still as possible in order to obtain a clear image. You may be allowed to move slightly between scans, but not so much so as to change your position. Ask the technologist when it is okay to move.

During the exam you will hear dull pounding sounds coming from the scanner. These are just the normal sounds of the machine at work. The technologist will often provide you with earplugs which will decrease the noise while still allowing you to hear instructions.

Although the technologist will be in an adjoining room during the exam, you will be able to talk with the technologist through an intercom system at all times.

Following the Exam: 

The results of the scan will not be given to you at the time of the exam. A radiologist will interpret the images and send a report to the physician who ordered your breast MRI. Your physician will review the results with you.