Breast MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging)

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Vancouver Radiologists, P.C. is proud to be a regional leader in breast MRI services, accredited by the American College of Radiology or (ACR), and to have on staff, radiologists and technologists who have achieved the highest standard of expertise through national certifications and specialties. Among our radiologists, you will find breast imaging fellowship trained and board certified physicians and our MRI technologists are certified members of the American Registered Radiological Technologists (ARRT) with a specialty in MRI.

What is Breast MRI?

MRI is a safe and painless diagnostic test that uses a strong magnet and radiofrequency waves to create detailed pictures of structures inside the body. MRI does not use ionizing radiation (x-ray). A breast MRI is a study that provides complimentary information to previous breast imaging. MRI of the breast offers valuable information about many breast conditions and is a supplemental tool for further evaluation following a mammogram or breast ultrasound. We highly recommend that the exam is coordinated around your menstrual cycle.

Breast MRI requires an order from your physician and pre-authorization from your insurance provider.   A co-pay and/or deductible may apply. Please check with your health insurance provider regarding your specific plan benefits. We request that you obtain copies, or sign a release for us to obtain copies, of any previous related imaging studies and reports not performed with Vancouver Radiologists for us to use for comparison. We will do our best to coordinate your appointment to accommodate these requirements.

If a Breast MRI is recommended, you will receive a call from our office with additional information, and to answer your questions, a day or two before your procedure. Please plan to arrive 30-45 minutes prior to your procedure in order to complete the necessary paperwork.

Be sure to tell a member of the health care team if you:

  • are pregnant or think you may be
  • are breast feeding, as it is optional to discontinue for 24 hours after the procedure
  • have any known allergies, including previous reaction to x-ray contrast
  • have any medical conditions such as asthma, heart disease and / or kidney issues
  • are diabetic, and take metformin /glucophage
  • *are claustrophobic

*Anti-anxiety medication is available upon request but may require additional observation time post procedure and requires a driver upon discharge. If you arrive without a driver, your exam will be rescheduled.

Because you are receiving IV contrast, please make sure that you drink more fluids than usual the day before the procedure, such as water, juice, or herbal teas to ensure you are well hydrated. You should not eat solids for 4 hours prior to the scheduled exam time; clear liquids are okay (water, fruit juice without pulp, clear soup, but no caffeine) until 2 hours prior to the exam.

During a Breast MRI

Due to the strong magnetic field, a technologist will review your clinical history prior to examination. MRI is not safe for patients with cardiac pacemakers, neurospinal stimulators and/or implanted defibrillators and an alternative procedure should be recommended.   All metallic objects must be removed prior to exam. We prefer patients leave valuables, including jewelry and/or piercings, at home. All patients are required to change into scrubs or a gown regardless of the exam scheduled for MRI.

Prior to imaging, the first step of the procedure will be the placement of an intravenous access (IV) device for the use of a contrast material called Gadolinium that is administered during the last part of the procedure. Vancouver Radiologists uses only the safest type of IV contrast medium available and the technologist is able to observe and monitor you throughout the entire procedure.  Once the IV is in place, you will be escorted to the MRI area where you will lay face down on the MRI table which has openings for your breasts. Your head will be facing the technologist’s window giving you the feeling of openness and security.

Please plan on 90 minutes from the time of check-in to the completion of the procedure. The test itself lasts for approximately 45 minutes but is broken up into multiple 3-5 minute segments. During the final few minutes of the exam, the contrast material will be administered and you may feel a bit of warmth and/or metallic taste in your mouth. This is normal, and should not linger. It should also be noted that the post contrast segment of the exam will last approximately 11 minutes.

Please be advised throughout your MRI you must lie very still, face down, with your arms extended over your head so the images being captured are not blurry. The noise of the procedure can be a loud knocking and/or whining sound with pitch changes. These can be slightly startling; however we do provide earplugs for your exam. We suggest you focus on your breathing to help you relax and remain still. The technologist will talk to you between segments and you will be provided an emergency button to hold onto in case you need to contact the technologist at any time during the procedure.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding your exam, please ask your technologist. The technologist will ensure the images taken are complete and accurate, before you leave the clinic; however please note, the technologist does not interpret the images.

After a Breast MRI

Any contrast material given during the procedure will pass naturally through your body, usually within one day. Drink plenty of water for at least 24 hours post procedure. You may resume your normal activity and diet, unless told otherwise. If you receive sedation, please expect some post-procedure observation time. *You will be provided specific discharge instructions after the procedure. 

Our radiologists will review and interpret your MRI images; however no information will be available at the time of the study. Results are sent to your healthcare provider to discuss with you. If you have not been contacted with results within 48 hours, please contact your healthcare provider.

Per MQSA guidelines, we are required to provide written exam results to both you and your physician, on all breast related studies. If further imaging evaluation is recommended, you may be contacted by either your physician or our Patient Navigator on behalf of your physician, before you receive the written results in the mail.  As always, if you have questions or concerns at any time, please contact us and ask to speak to one of our Patient Navigators at (360)254-4914.