Breast Magnetic Resonance Imaging

What is Breast MRI?

A magnetic resonance imaging scan (MRI) uses a large, powerful magnet and a computer to create pictures of your breast. Each picture is a very small “slice” of breast tissue. The many, many pictures taken with MRI gives your doctor detailed information to help diagnose and plan your treatment. This test usually takes between 45 and 60 minutes.

Safety Screening Questions:

You will be asked a number of questions prior to your MRI for your safety:

  • Have you ever worked with grinding, welding or shaving of metal?  No matter how long ago.
  • Do you have any implanted metal? (screws, plates, rods, wires, joint replacement, dental appliances, heart valve, heart stents, cerebral aneurysm clips, cochlear implant, body piercing)?
  • Do you have a pacemaker or defibrillator?
  • Any gunshot or shrapnel wounds?
  • Are you using any medication patches? (birth control, nitroglycerin, nicotine, or hormones?) Your patch may need to be removed during the exam.
  • Do you have any tattoos?
  • Are you pregnant?  MRI is not recommended during the first three months of pregnancy.
  • Are you claustrophobic (afraid of closed spaces)? Your physician may give you medication to help you relax during the exam.
  • Some of the items listed do not cause problems with MRI, but it is VERY important to know about any and all potential concerns.

What to Expect:

  • Personal items such as your watch, wallet-including any credit/debit cards with magnetic strips (they will be erased by the magnet) and jewelry should be left at home if possible.
  • Hearing aids will also need to be removed as they can be damaged by the magnetic field.
  • You should wear clothing free of any metal (snaps, hooks, zippers or buttons). If this is not possible, you will be asked to change into a hospital gown.
  • An IV will be inserted into your hand or arm for injection of a contrast agent.
  • The technologists will help position you on the MRI table.
  • You will be lying on your stomach with your breasts hanging into an opening in the table containing the signal receiver (also called the “breast coil”).
  • The entire table will move in and out of the magnet.
  • You will be asked to lie quietly and breathe normally. You must lie very still during the MRI. The pictures may not be clear if you move even a little and the MRI may need to be repeated.
  • The MRI makes loud tapping, knocking noises. This is normal. Do not be frightened and continue to lie still. You will be given earplugs to reduce the noise level but you will still be able to hear and talk to the technologist.
  • After an initial set of pictures, you will be given the contrast agent through the IV and then another set of pictures will be taken. The contrast agent helps produce stronger, clearer pictures and “highlights” abnormalities making them very easy to see. The contrast agent is quickly removed from your body by your kidneys.

After the Exam:

  • Once the exam has been completed, the table will move out of the magnet.
  • Your IV will be removed and you will be helped off of the table.
  • You will be allowed to resume your normal activities.
  • Your doctor should tell you when you will get the results of this test. If you have any questions about this, please call your doctor’s office.

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