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MRI-Guided Breast Biopsy

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a test that uses a magnetic field and pulses of radio wave energy to make detailed pictures of the breast. An MRI-guided breast biopsy is a non-radiation, minimally invasive technique used to gather tissue samples from a breast abnormality. Sometimes these abnormalities turn out not to be a problem. If there is a potential problem, early detection is essential and increases treatment options and the likelihood of successful recovery.

Download a PDF with information about MRI-Guided Breast Biopsy

What Will the Procedure Be Like?

For your MRI-guided breast biopsy appointment, you should plan to be in the center for a couple of hours, which will include all pre- and post-procedure care. The procedure itself can take up to an hour. During this time you will be lying still on your stomach on a scanning table. Just as with a breast MRI, radio frequencies and a strong magnet are used in conjunction with contrast material to create highly detailed pictures of the breasts. As the procedure begins, you will hear a variety of muffled thumping and beeping sounds that will last for several minutes.

After the initial series of images has been taken, it is likely that you will be given a contrast fluid intravenously through a small IV catheter. Additional images will then be taken.

Once the abnormality is located, a radiologist will clean the area and inject a local anesthetic into the skin and deeper tissues to numb the area. A very small skin incision – approximately 1/4 inch – will be made.

The radiologist will then use imaging techniques to locate the abnormality and extract several tissue samples to be sent to and interpreted by a pathologist. After the tissue is removed, a small metallic marker will be placed. This marker is a reference point for future workups if needed, and confirms that the area of concern has been biopsied. Following your procedure, a mammogram will be performed to document the position of the marker.

Some women experience minor discomfort during this procedure. Others experience no discomfort at all.

What Do I Need To Do Before My Procedure?

When you schedule your exam, we will review your health history and any medications you are currently taking. On the day of your exam, you may eat and drink normally. Please wear a comfortable, loose fitting two-piece outfit as you will be asked to remove your top prior to the exam. A soft robe will be provided for your comfort. Please refrain from wearing any powder, perfumes, deodorant and/or lotions on your underarms and breasts prior to the procedure. A moist towelette will be provided if you need it and deodorant will be supplied to you after your exam.

Since the MRI is a magnet, please let us know if you have any metal in or on your body. Be sure to wear pants (sweats or yoga pants) without any metal and remove and leave jewelry and other metal objects at home. A locker will be provided for your belongings. As the MRI machine can be a bit loud, you may bring a CD with music for the staff to play for you during the procedure.

In order to provide you with the best care possible, we ask that you please arrive no later than the time requested. For patients who arrive after their scheduled appointment time, we may reschedule your procedure to another day.

What Do I Need To Do After My Procedure?

Following your MRI-guided breast biopsy, you will need to wear a supportive bra and keep the gauze dressing that covers your incision clean and dry for the first 24-48 hours. You may need to ice the biopsy site following the procedure. Detailed self-care instructions will be provided to you immediately following your biopsy.

Avoid any strenuous activity for 48 hours following your exam, especially activities that involve repetitive movement of the chest and arms such as lifting, vacuuming, swimming and exercising.

How and When Will I Learn About My Results?

Tissue samples obtained during your biopsy will be sent to a pathology lab. Once the results are provided by the lab, which may take a few days, a final results report is sent to your referring health care provider, who will then explain the results to you and answer any follow-up questions you may have.

Under the 21st Century Cures Act, we are required by law to provide you access to your results within 24 hours of them being finalized. Unfortunately, this means you could receive your results prior to receiving communication from our team.

If you have any questions about this procedure, please contact our Biopsy Coordinator at (253) 301-6600.

Center of Excellence 1The Carol Milgard Breast Center is fully accredited in breast MRI by the American College of Radiology (ACR). The ACR only grants the gold seal of accreditation when a breast center provides patients the highest level of image quality and patient safety.

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