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MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) is one of the greatest advances in medical imaging. It does not use ionizing radiation but rather it uses a powerful magnetic field and a computer to produce detailed images of the body. MRI is used to evaluate organs of the chest and abdomen, including the heart, liver, bile ducts, kidneys, spleen bowel, pancreas and adrenal glands. It is also used to evaluate both male and female reproductive organs such as prostate, testicles, uterus and ovaries. Blood vessels throughout the body can be examined in a non-invasive manner (MR Angiography). Most recently MR is used to evaluate the breasts and guide breast biopsies.

MRI of the breast is not a replacement for mammography or ultrasound imaging but rather a supplemental tool for detecting and staging breast cancer and other breast abnormalities. Medical studies are currently being conducted to determine whether MRI and other imaging methods can contribute to the early detection and prevention of deaths from breast cancer.

Examples of why MRI of the breast is used include:

  • screening patients who are at high risk for developing breast cancer, for example, those who are BRCA gene positive or have a mother or sister diagnosed with breast cancer at an early age (pre/peri-menopausal)
  • evaluating the extent of disease in a patient who has been recently diagnosed with breast cancer, especially if breast-conserving therapy is contemplated
  • assessing the effect of chemotherapy
  • determining the integrity of breast implants


Preparation for the examination:

If your MRI is to be done with contrast you must not eat or drink for TWO hours prior to the exam. MRI of the breast is ALWAYS performed with contract unless it is specifically being done only to evaluate implant integrity.

MR Safety:

MRI is a unique environment. Safety is paramount. Powerful magnetic fields are used to create pictures of the inside of the body. The MRI is a giant magnet 5 times the strength of those used to pick up cars in a junk yard. The magnet is always on. Special shielding is put in place around the MRI machine for everyone’s protection.

A technologist will perform the examination. The technologist has been trained to provide a safe environment. Prior to proceeding with the examination you will be asked several safety questions as it relates to the MRI environment. Questions will be asked related to prior surgery, injuries and medications. If you have certain implantable medical devices and medications you will not be allowed to enter the MRI environment. You may have received a card from your physician identifying the device that has been implanted. Please check the card before you come for your appointment and call if you have a question. It is important to bring the card with you on the day of the examination.

You may be asked to get a routine x-ray prior to entering the MRI environment if there is a question of a foreign body that may be ferromagnetic especially if it is near your eyes (i.e. sheet metal worker or history of shrapnel).

Once the technologist has deemed it is safe for you to enter the MRI environment you will be asked to remove your wallet and probably your watch. The MRI magnet will erase the magnetic strip on credit cards and will stop the battery in you watch. If you have any questions about whether the MRI will be safe for you, call and ask to speak with the MRI technologist or a Radiologist, a physician who will be reading the examination.

How is the study performed?

We will be asked to change into a patient gown. Please DO NOT enter the scan room with any metallic objects including watches, keys, jewelry, hairclips, or coins. Credit cards and ATM card magnetic codes will be erased by the magnetic field. Patients with metallic or electronic implants should alert the technologist prior to entering the room as the MRI may adversely affect these items. (Please see MR safety section)

MRI of the breast always requires the use of contrast (unless being performed to evaluate implants). The contrast will be injected by a nurse or technologist through a small catheter placed in a vein. The catheter is usually inserted prior to the procedure with the injection taking place during the procedure.

You will be positioned on a movable exam table. Straps and bolsters may be applied to assist in positioning and a special device (breast coil) will be used to concentrate the magnetic field on the breasts and chest wall.

During the exam, you will be asked to remain very still. You will hear faint hums and the thumping sound of the radio waves. You will be in constant contact with a caring, courteous technologist who will be there to assist you if the need arises.

The entire exam usually takes between 30 and 45 minutes depending on the type of exam you are having. The technologist will check for completeness of the exam and acquire any additional images, if needed. If you had an IV inserted, it will be removed and your exam will be complete.

Who will interpret the examination?

Your examination will be interpreted by a Radiologist, who is a Physician (M.D.) specifically trained to supervise and interpret radiology examinations. He/she will analyze the images and send a signed report to your primary care or referring physician, who will discuss the results with you. Upon request, you can arrange a consultation with the Radiologist who interpreted your examination.