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Analyzing Breast MRI, Part II: Common Use, Technical Recommendations, and New and Future Trends

Marlene Johnson, MEd, RT(R)*

*Education Director - Department of Radiology, University of Utah Health Care, Cottonwood Heights, UT (Retired); Medical Writer.

Address correspondence to: Marlene M. Johnson, Med, RT(R), 8424 S. Kings Cove Dr, Cottonwood Heights, UT 84121. Ph: 801-556-1869; Email: mj2216@me.com.

Disclosure Statement: Ms Johnson reports having no financial or advisory relationships with corporate organizations related to this activity.


Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the breast is accepted as a valuable tool in breast imaging today, but there are little data regarding mortality benefits and how breast MRI is actually used in clinical practice. Inherent obstacles in the image acquisition process, the high cost of the exam, and the need to use a contrast agent prevent breast MRI from playing a more active role in breast cancer screening. In the future, utilizing innovative sequencing techniques and reducing the number of protocols may have a positive effect on image resolution and may reduce the procedural time. In academic institutions and research facilities, modified breast coils are being developed with higher efficiency than standard MRI coils and newer, noncontrast methods of conducting breast MRI are being analyzed. Results of clinical studies on the value of using ultra-small super paramagnetic iron oxide (USPIO) particles to diagnose lymph node involvement in breast cancer patients are promising. This technique could potentially replace sentinel lymph node biopsies, reducing patient complications and morbidity.

This article discusses the results of studies that have analyzed how breast MRI has been used in clinical practice within the past decade. Technical recommendations from groups on the acquisition process of breast MRI are presented, in addition to new trends in breast coil development, breast MRI sequencing, and application of shorter MRI protocols for specific indications. Functional breast imaging and the use of USPIO particles with breast MRI will be explored.    

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