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Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) of the Breast

Risks continued...

If you may have metal fragments in your eyes, an MRI can cause damage to the retina. If there is a concern about metal fragments in the eye, most MRI clinics will do X-rays of the eyes before the MRI. If metal is found on the X-ray, the MRI will not be done.

Iron pigments in tattoos or tattooed eyeliner can cause skin or eye irritation problems.

An MRI can cause a burn with some medicine patches. Be sure to tell your doctor if you are wearing a patch.

Contrast material that contains gadolinium may cause a serious problem (called nephrogenic systemic fibrosis) in people who have kidney failure.

There is a small risk of having an allergic reaction if contrast material is used during the MRI scan. Most reactions are mild and can be treated with medicine. There is also a small risk of infection at the IV site.

An MRI may be more likely than other tests to report a problem in the breast when a problem is not there (false-positive). A false-positive result may lead to more tests such as a biopsy when no serious problem is really present. So MRI is not used as a screening test for women at low or average risk for breast cancer.

Results

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) uses a magnetic field and pulses of radio waves to make pictures of the breast.

The radiologist may discuss the results of the MRI with you right after the test. Complete results are usually available to your doctor in 1 to 2 days.

An MRI scan can sometimes find a problem in a breast, even when the size and shape of the breast looks normal.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the breast
Normal:

The breast tissue looks normal in size, shape, and appearance.

No solid masses are present.

A breast implant is intact.

No signs of inflammation or infection are present.

Abnormal:

Solid masses are present.

Signs of infection or inflammation are present.

A breast implant is ruptured.

Underarm lymph nodes do not look normal.

What Affects the Test

Reasons you may not be able to have the test or why the results may not be helpful include:

  • Pregnancy. An MRI test usually is not done during pregnancy. If you are pregnant, an ultrasound test may be done instead.
  • Medical devices that have metal, such as a pacemaker or an ICD. These devices may not function properly or can cause problems during an MRI scan.
  • Other types of metal, such as surgical clips. If these will interfere with a breast MRI, the test will not be done.
  • Inability to remain still during the test.
  • Being very overweight. This may affect your ability to fit into the opening of some standard MRI machines.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 08, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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