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Breast MRI

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Abbreviated breast MRI is commonly used as a supplemental screening in addition to mammogram for women with dense breast tissue. Unlike mammography, MRI imaging is not affected by dense breast tissue, making it very effective in finding cancer in dense breasts.

Abbreviated breast MRI differs from full breast MRI in that it is shorter in length (3 minutes of scan time as opposed to 20 minutes) and less expensive but still offers exceptional detail.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the breast is a noninvasive test that is recommended to find and diagnose breast disease. MRI uses a powerful magnetic field, radio frequency pulses, and a computer to produce detailed images of body structure. MRI does not use ionizing radiation (X-rays). Radiologists examine these detailed images to evaluate features of the breast. MRI images can be examined on a computer monitor and transmitted electronically.

Abbreviated breast MRI detects cancer differently than ultrasound or mammography, which rely on physical changes in the structure of the breast. Abbreviated breast MRI detects cancer based on inflammation or blood supply changes caused by tumors.

Since MRI uses a very strong magnet, any implanted medical device may be affected, so be sure to tell your technologist about any device in your body. In general, metallic orthopedic implants are not affected by MRI, but tell your provider and ARA scheduler about any implant you have before scheduling the exam. Your implant or device may come with a special information card that you should show to the radiology technologist.

Some implants are not compatible with MRI scanners. Do not enter any MRI scanning area if you have any of the following implants:

  • Cochlear (ear) implant
  • Some brain aneurysm clips
  • Some metal coils/stents placed inside blood vessels
  • Cardiac defibrillators and pacemakers

Other implants that should be brought to the technologist’s attention before entering the MRI scanning area are:

  • Artificial heart valves
  • Implanted drug infusion ports
  • Artificial limbs or metallic joint prostheses
  • Implanted nerve stimulators
  • Metal pins, screws, plates, stents or surgical staples

Also, if you have any other metal in your body (shrapnel, bullets, needles, etc.) you should notify your scheduler or technologist. Metal in or near the eye is especially dangerous since movement of the metal during the procedure could lead to eye damage. Dental fillings and braces usually are not affected by the magnetic field, but they may distort images taken of the head or face.


  • As a supplement to mammography, MRI has been proven to be effective in evaluating women with dense breast tissue.
  • The contrast agent used for MRI exams is well tolerated by most people.
  • Abbreviated breast MRI is a shorter exam (3 minutes scan time) compared to full breast MRI (20 minutes scan time).
  • MRI is a noninvasive imaging technique that does not use ionizing radiation (X-rays).


  • There is almost no risk to the average person getting an MRI exam when appropriate safety guidelines are observed.
  • Because a very strong magnet is used, any metal implants or objects in the body may malfunction or cause a poor result on the MRI image. In these cases, it may not be possible for the patient to undergo an MRI exam. Precaution must be taken to remove all metal jewelry, watches, or body braces before the exam, including metal zippers and buttons on clothing.
  • Patients with poor kidney function may be at risk for a rare complication thought to be caused by injections of high doses of gadolinium-based contrast agent. Therefore, an assessment of kidney function is performed before using a contrast injection.
  • Very rarely, a patient will have an allergic reaction to the contrast material. These reactions are generally very mild and easily controlled with medication. If you have an allergic reaction during the exam, a radiologist or paramedic will be available for immediate assistance.
  • Manufacturers of intravenous contrast indicate mothers should not breastfeed their babies for 24-48 hours after receiving a contrast agent. However, the American College of Radiology notes that available data suggest that it is safe to continue breastfeeding after receiving contrast. Please discuss your breastfeeding options with your medical provider.
  • MRI produces images of the body’s structure by passing radio waves through a powerful magnetic field. Ionizing radiation (X-ray) is not used for this exam.
  • You will be asked to change into a gown.
  • Since you will be positioned within a large, strong magnet, you must remove all metal objects, including piercings.
  • Let your technologist know if you have any medical or electronic implants or tattoos on your body.
  • Abbreviated breast MRI requires the injection of a contrast material that will help highlight any suspicious areas. After an initial series of MRI images, you will receive an intravenous (IV) injection that will be administered into a vein in your arm or hand by an ARA technologist.
  • During your exam, you will be positioned on a special MRI table adapter that will allow you to lie on your stomach with your breasts hanging freely through an opening, so they are in the correct position for a successful scan. You will place your arms above your head.
  • The table will move into the magnet and you will need to remain still as the exam proceeds.
  • You will hear various noises as the MRI does its job, ranging from buzzing to loud knocking sounds.
  • The technologist will inform you of the progress of the exam and you will be able to contact and speak with the technologist at any time.
  • The imaging session will last about 10 minutes (3 minutes of scan time) and you will be at ARA for about a half hour.
  • Abbreviated breast MRI requires a provider referral. Please bring a copy to your appointment.
  • If you have had prior breast imaging at an office other than ARA Diagnostic Imaging, please inform the scheduler or bring those images with you for comparison if possible.
  • Let the scheduler and technologist know if you have medical or electronic devices in your body, if you have any kidney issues or allergies to contrast materials, or if you are pregnant or nursing.
  • If you have mobility or pain issues, please let your scheduler know so we can make accommodations.
  • If you feel anxious about claustrophobia during the exam, please discuss this with your scheduler. ARA can discuss options to help make you more comfortable, such as light sedation

To schedule, please call our scheduling team at (512) 453-6100 or toll free at (800) 998-8214. A provider referral is required to make an appointment.

A radiologist, a physician specifically trained to interpret radiological examinations, will analyze the images and send a signed report to the provider who referred you to ARA. The physician will then share the results with you.

ARA wants to provide a safe, comfortable environment for patients and staff.

Patients may either bring or request a chaperone to accompany them during their exam to help protect and enhance their safety and comfort.

When requested, ARA will attempt to provide a chaperone with whom the patient feels comfortable. If a patient’s chaperone request cannot be accommodated, the patient will be given the opportunity to reschedule their exam.

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