Preparing for your Breast MRI Exam

What is a breast MRI exam like?

The Aurora is designed specifically for your comfort. During the exam, you will lie on your stomach with your breasts placed in openings in the Aurora examination table so that they’re suspended away from your chest. Unlike conventional x-ray mammography, breast MRI doesn’t require your breasts to be compressed, so you shouldn’t experience any discomfort. Plus, you’ll enter the machine feet-first, which reduces feelings of claustrophobia sometimes associated with full-body MRI scanners.

You’ll receive an injection (usually in the arm) of a contrast enhancement agent called gadolinium that helps to highlight various structures in breast tissue. The gadolinium is administered through a small IV catheter, which is placed by a certified technologist.

An initial scan will be taken and then repeated after the gadolinium is administered. For best results, you should lie very still, relax and breathe normally. The technologist can see and hear you at all times. The entire exam takes about 45 minutes.

Note on Gadolinium agents

Gadolinium contrast is a very safe drug in almost all patients. A rare condition called nephrogenic systemic fibrosis (NSF) has developed in people who have a history of receiving gadolinium contrast agents. It occurs principally in people with impaired kidney function. If you are at risk for poor kidney function or are over the age of 60, your renal function will be tested prior to administration of gadolinium. If your kidneys are not functioning well, we may not be able to perform the test. A number of different gadolinium agents are on the market. The Breast Center is constantly evaluating these agents and selects the formulation with the highest safety profile for use in our patients.

Breastfeeding and pregnancy

If you are breastfeeding, you may still have a breast MRI. The engorgement of the breast due to lactation does not adversely affect the diagnostic capability of breast MRI. A small amount of gadolinium is excreted in the breast milk. If your baby has normal kidneys, the small amount of gadolinium that is consumed will be readily eliminated in the urine.

If you are pregnant, it is likely that you will not be able to have a breast MRI. Breast MRI requires that you lie on your stomach for a period of time that may be uncomfortable during pregnancy. In addition the gadolinium agents used for breast MRI have not been approved for use in pregnant women.

How do I prepare for the test?

No special preparation is required. You can eat a light meal, engage in regular activities, and take any prescription medication prior to your exam. Plan to arrive about 30 minutes before your appointment time. You’ll be asked to wear no metal from the waist down and to change into a gown since belts, zippers, snaps, and thread in clothing may contain metal that disturbs MRI signals.

We’ll ask you questions before you enter the MRI exam room to confirm that you don’t have any contraindications to MRI exam.

Please leave all jewelry at home if possible. You’ll have to remove all metallic objects such as glasses, hairpins, and dentures (personal belongings can be locked in your dressing room). Please be sure to tell the technologist if you have metal implants, a cardiac pacemaker, permanent dental bridges, braces or other metal objects. Please bring any previous breast imaging studies with you.

What about after the test?

There are no side-effects or after-effects with MRI, so you can resume your normal activities as soon as your exam is over. The radiologist will interpret your MRI scan and report the findings to your doctor.

Does insurance cover breast MRI?

Most major health insurance carriers cover breast MRI. If your health plan requires you to have a written referral for this type of exam, please be sure to obtain the necessary paperwork prior to your appointment so that we can bill your carrier directly. Some carriers require pre-authorization for breast MRI. We will work with your doctor to help obtain insurance coverage for your procedure.

Questions?

If you have any questions about breast MRI or your exam, please see our Breast MRI FAQ’s or call us at 479-442-6266 or 1-866-718-6266 between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday.