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Breast MRI

Baptist Health Lexington was the first hospital in the area to offer breast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). An emerging technology for breast imaging, breast MRI is one of the most sensitive in the detection of breast malignancies.

Although not a substitute for mammography, breast MRI can provide additional information in certain cases. Breast MRI can be used for staging breast cancer, in surgical and treatment planning, and evaluating the success of cancer therapy. It is also used in evaluating patients with a genetic predisposition for breast cancer, high familial risk patients, palpable abnormalities without a mammogram or ultrasound finding, nipple discharge, and if mammographic/ultrasonographic findings are nonspecific.

Breast MRI may also be used for silicone breast implants, to determine whether the implants are ruptured and to define the extent of leakage that may have occurred.

The MRI study of the breasts for cancer uses contrast material, which is injected into a vein. The images produced are 3-dimensional and have high resolution and clarity. Breast MRI is very sensitive, often capable of detecting tumors as small as four to five millimeters (the size of a pea).

Pre-Requisites For The Exam

For patients who are pre-menopausal, the exam will be scheduled between days 7-14 of your menstrual cycle. If you are currently on hormone replacement therapy, you will be asked to discontinue your hormones at least 30 days prior to your breast MRI.

If you are not a Baptist Health Lexington patient, we require all outside mammogram/ultrasound images and reports along with any pathology reports from the last five years.

Preparing For The Exam

No advance preparation is required. Eat normally and take any medication as usual, unless your doctor has given you other instructions.

If you are claustrophobic, your physician may prescribe a mild sedative that you may bring with you to take before the exam. If you need a sedative, you must bring the medication with you, and you will need a driver with you.


Because of the strong magnetic field, you cannot be examined by MRI if you have any of the following metal/mechanical devices:

Pacemaker, cerebral aneurysm clips, insulin pumps, inner ear implants, neurostimulator, Copper-7 IUD, breast tissue expanders or any other metal in the body, especially in your eyes. Please notify us if you have any of the above, or are uncertain whether you do.

Pregnancy is also a contraindication for MRI exams, specifically when contrast is used.

What To Expect

You will be asked to change into comfortable clothing that we will provide for the examination. You will be asked to remove jewelry, glasses, hearing aids and any metal objects which could be affected by the magnetic field.

The technologist will obtain a medical history from you and ask several questions to assure your safe entrance into the MRI environment.

Contrast (gadolinium) is necessary to perform the MRI breast exam. The  contrast used will be explained to you. It is important to tell the technologist if you have had a reaction to MRI contrast in the past. A blood test may be performed prior to your exam to assure you have good renal function.

A small intravenous catheter will be placed in your arm for the contrast administration.

In the imaging room, you will be positioned on a softly padded table. You will lie flat on your stomach for the exam. Your breasts will rest in a special “coil” (MRI positioning device) which receives the magnetic signal from the area being studied.

Your job during the examination is simply to relax and not move. The quality of your MRI study depends on your ability to hold still. 

The actual breast MRI exam takes 20 to 30 minutes.