Frequently Asked Questions About Breast MRI

1. Is a Breast MRI Scan an alternative to Mammography?

Breast MRI provides additional information to complement a mammogram. It is not an alternative or replacement for mammograms.

The hope is that such non-invasive studies will contribute to our progress in learning how to predict the behavior of tumors and in selecting proper treatments. Breast MRI is not a replacement for standard screening and diagnostic procedures (clinical self exams, mammograms, fine needle aspiration or biopsy).

2. What does a Breast MRI Scan show?

MRI has been shown to detect small breast cancers that are sometimes missed by mammography, and MRI can successfully image the dense breast (usually found in younger women) for underlying and unsuspected breast cancers. Breast implants may be evaluated faster, safer, and with less patient discomfort.

Cancer involving the margins of breast masses may be better visualized with Breast MRI. The extent of breast cancer may be underestimated with mammography. One in three women will have their surgical planning altered based upon the results of the Breast MRI Scan. Proper surgical planning should result in a better outcome for the patient.

The shape and vascular enhancement pattern of abnormalities can be analyzed. In very dense breasts, abnormalities may be more readily detected than by other imaging exams.

3. Why is the Aurora Breast MRI system better?

Some MRI manufacturers have tried to adapt their general MRI scanners to allow for Breast MRI Imaging. The Aurora Breast MRI scanner is specifically designed to optimally visualize breast tissue and underlying abnormalities. No other MRI Scanner can make this claim.

The Aurora Breast MRI design offers the patient increased comfort, less claustrophobia, and faster examination time. Added benefits include a single visit for bilateral breast examination and more convenience for the patient. The same MRI test on other general-purpose MRI scanners may require performance on two separate visits, with two intravenous injections, an increased cost to the patient, and the limitations of technology with a retrofitted breast MRI coil.

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.

Medication Guide for Dotarem

Gadolinium agents

Gadolinium contrast is a very safe drug in almost all patients. Patients receiving dialysis should schedule to have dialysis right after an MRI with contrast, to assure the contrast agent is cleared from the kidneys. 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. 

More on Gadolinium Injection Safety. from the American Society of Breast Imaging


Breastfeeding and pregnancy

If you are breastfeeding, you may still have a breast MRI. You should nurse or pump prior to the test. 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.

4. Does insurance cover breast MRI?

Most major health insurance carriers cover breast MRI, although you may have an out of pocket cost. 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. An MRI scheduler will discuss your insurance and out of pocket costs at the time of scheduling. 


Breast Health
Breast MRI
Dense Breast Screening
Risk Assessment
Breast Biopsy

Request an Appointment

(479) 442-6266
Toll Free (866) 718-6266


Danna F. Grear, MD
Kevin L . Pope, MD
Steven E. Harms, MD
Kelly A. Johnson, MD
Britton B. Lott, MD
Katherine Rankin, DO