About Breast MRI
MRI is short for Magnetic Resonance Imaging.
MRI is a very useful type of diagnostic imaging exam and can be used for a variety of reasons. MRI is very sensitive to changes in body tissue and has a very high resolution. This allows a radiologist to see changes that may not be visible in other imaging exams. MRI excels at imaging soft tissues such as the breasts. While MRI is a very powerful and versatile technology, it is not used in all circumstances. Your doctor will let you know if breast MRI is the right exam for you.
MRI does not use ionizing radiation, as CT scans and x-rays do. Instead, MRI generates images using a very strong magnet and radio waves. The images are cross sections like CT scans, but MRI can also produce images in lengthwise planes without the patient having to change position.
Breast MRI scans require the use of a contrast medium called gadolinium. The contrast, which is given intravenously, highlights the breast tissue so the radiologist can better see any abnormalities.
Conventional MRI machines have a donut shape with a tube that is usually about 3 feet in length. This exam causes anxiety for some people who are claustrophobic. If you know you are claustrophobic, please let our staff know at the time of scheduling. You may be given a mild sedative to help you relax.
Reasons for Having a Breast MRI
Women with diagnosed breast cancer or a suspicious lump or mass may undergo a breast MRI to gather additional information. A breast MRI can help a physician determine the most appropriate type of surgery for breast cancer.
Breast MRIs are also often recommended for women with the following circumstances:
- Strong family history of breast cancer
- Genetic risk for breast cancer
- Scar tissue from previous breast surgery
- Dense breast tissue
Since these factors may cause a mammogram to show incomplete information, a breast MRI may be used in addition to the more traditional imaging, including mammography and breast ultrasound.
Risks Involved in a Breast MRI
MRI uses a very strong magnet. It could be dangerous to be in the magnetic field if you have any of the following:
- Aneurysm clips in the brain
- Implanted electronic devices such as nerve stimulators or medication pumps
- Metal fragments or splinters in the eye from grinding metal or welding
- Implants in the inner ear (cochlea)
There is also the possibility of a reaction to the contrast medium used for this exam; however, this is rare.
Scheduling, Insurance and Preparation
Contact your personal physician for a referral for this exam. Then call 720-493-3700 to schedule.
Breast MRI scans are usually covered by insurance when ordered by a physician. Check with your insurance company to be sure. Please bring your insurance card with you to your exam.
Conditions to Let Us Know About
In advance of your exam, let your scheduler or technologist know if any of the following circumstances apply to you:
- Currently pregnant
- Previous reaction to MRI contrast medium (gadolinium)
- Metallic fragments or splinters in your eye
- Aneurysm clips in the brain
- Any metallic, magnetic, mechanical or electronic devices
- Previous welding or grinding of metal without eye protection
- Weight over 300 lbs.
- Unable to lie on your stomach
Following are the general preparation instructions for this exam. You may receive additional or differing guidelines based on your specific situation. Please contact us at 720-493-3700 if you have any questions.
- Wear comfortable slacks or skirt with elastic or draw string waist band, if possible. If not, scrub pants will be provided for you to wear.
- Take all prescribed medications.
- Bring any related images not done at an Invision Sally Jobe facility.
- Notify your doctor of any conditions you have under the Conditions to Let Us Know About section.
- Leave valuables, jewelry and watches at home, if possible.
- Any jewelry that is difficult to remove should be taken off at home prior to the exam.
- Arrive 30 minutes prior to your appointment time to complete necessary paperwork.
Breast MRI with Sedation
Following are additional guidelines for patients who have been scheduled to receive sedation for their breast MRIs:
- Nothing but clear liquids for 4 hours before the exam.
- Nothing by mouth for 2 hours before the exam (except small amount of water if needed to take medication).
- Arrange for someone to drive you to and from the exam.
What to Expect
During the Exam
Here is generally what will happen during a breast MRI:
- A technologist will ask you some safety questions.
- You will remove all metal and metallic objects, such as eyeglasses, belts, hair accessories and jewelry.
- You will change into a gown. You may use a secure locker for your personal items during your exam.
- A small IV will be placed in your hand.
- You will go to the exam room. The technologist will help position you on the MRI table. You will lie on your stomach with your breasts hanging freely through openings in the table (coil).
- The table will slide into the MRI for scans to be taken. The MRI machine will make buzzing and banging sounds. You will be provided with earplugs or headphones to protect your hearing. It is extremely important not to move any part of your body during the MRI scan to avoid blurring the images.
- The table will slide out of the MRI scanner and you will be given contrast through the IV.
- The table will slide into the MRI for additional scans. Again, it is extremely important not to move any part of your body during the MRI scan to avoid blurring the images.
- The IV will be removed after the exam is completed.
- You will change back into your clothes.
The technologist will not stay in the room during the scan, but you can speak with him or her throughout the exam by intercom.
The exam lasts about 45 minutes. It will take longer if you have breast implants. Both of your breasts will be imaged unless your physician specifically requests that only one breast be imaged.
If you require copies of your MRI images, please notify the technologist before your exam begins.
Breast MRI with Sedation
Sedation must be given one hour before the exam is performed through an IV. Once you have been positioned on the scan table, a nurse will place a pulse oximeter on your finger. The pulse oximeter records your pulse and oxygen levels. The nurse will administer the IV sedation and monitor your vital signs throughout the MRI scan. The sedation will help you relax, but it will not put you to sleep.
After the Exam
You can return to your normal activities immediately after your MRI unless you received a sedative. If you were sedated, you cannot drive after the exam.
A board-certified radiologist experienced in the interpretation of breast MRI scans will analyze the data and results from your exam. The results will be reported to your physician. Your physician will pass the results onto you.
During the exam, our radiologists and technologists will be happy to answer questions about the exam itself; however, they will not immediately provide you with the results of your exam.