Breast MRI examinations may be performed on outpatients or inpatients.

You will be positioned on the movable examination table. Straps and bolsters may be used to help you stay still and maintain the correct position during imaging.

For an MRI of the breast, you will lie face down on your stomach with your breasts hanging freely into cushioned openings, which are surrounded by a breast coil, which is a signal receiver that works with the MRI unit to create the images. It is important to remain very still throughout the exam. This is best accomplished by making sure you are comfortable and can relax rather than trying to actively hold still tensing your muscles. Be sure to let the technologist know if something is uncomfortable, since discomfort increases the chance that you will feel the need to move during the exam. Even very small movements can limit the ability to get a quality exam.

If a contrast material will be used in the MRI exam, a nurse or technologist will insert an intravenous line into a vein in your hand or arm. A saline solution may be used. The solution will drip through the IV to prevent blockage of the IV line until the contrast material is injected.

You will be moved into the magnet of the MRI unit and the radiologist and technologist will leave the room while the MRI examination is performed.

If a contrast material is used during the examination, it will be injected into the intravenous line (IV) after an initial series of scans. Additional series of images will be taken during or following the injection.

When the examination is completed, you may be asked to wait until the technologist or radiologist checks the images in case additional images are needed.

Your intravenous line will be removed.

MRI exams generally include multiple runs (sequences), some of which may last several minutes.

The imaging session lasts between 30 minutes and one hour and the total examination is usually completed within an hour and a half.

MR spectroscopy, which provides additional information on the chemicals present in the body's cells, may also be performed during the MRI exam and may add approximately 15 minutes to the exam time.

Source: RadiologyInfo.org (developed jointly the American College of Radiology and the Radiological Society of North America)