Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a noninvasive medical test that helps physicians diagnose medical conditions. MR imaging uses a powerful magnetic field, radio frequency pulses and a computer to produce detailed pictures of organs, soft tissues, bone and virtually all other internal body structures.
Breast MRI offers valuable information about many breast conditions that cannot be obtained by other imaging modalities, such as mammography or ultrasound. It is not a replacement for mammography or ultrasound imaging but rather a supplemental tool for detecting and staging breast cancer and other breast abnormalities.
During a MRI examination, you will be positioned on the moveable examination table. Straps and bolsters may be used to help you stay still and maintain the correct position during imaging.
For an MRI of the breast, you will lie face down on your stomach with your breasts hanging freely into cushioned openings. It is important to remain very still throughout the exam. This is best accomplished by making sure you are comfortable and can relax rather than trying to actively hold still tensing your muscles. Be sure to let the technologist know if something is uncomfortable, since discomfort increases the chance that you will feel the need to move during the exam. Even very small movements can limit the ability to get a quality exam.
If a contrast material will be used in the MRI exam, a nurse or technologist will insert an intravenous (IV) line into a vein in your hand or arm. You will be moved into the magnet of the MRI unit and the radiologist and technologist will leave the room while the MRI examination is performed.
If a contrast material is used during the examination, it will be injected into the intravenous line (IV) after an initial series of scans. Additional series of images will be taken during or following the injection. When the examination is completed, you may be asked to wait until the technologist or radiologist checks the images in case additional images are needed. Your intravenous line will be removed.
MRI exams generally include multiple runs (sequences), some of which may last several minutes. The imaging session lasts between 30 minutes and one hour and the total examination is usually completed within an hour and a half.