Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)of Breast Implants: How, when and why?
Magnetic Resonance Imaging of the breasts can be used to image breast implants to check for ruptures or leaks. MR imaging may also be used as an adjunctive tool to conventional mammography for women with implants.
MRI gives radiologists significant freedom in acquiring direct views of the breasts in any plane or orientation. This is because the MRI system switches magnetic fields and radio waves to achieve the acquisition of different views while x-ray mammography requires re-orientation of the breast and mammography system for each view desired. MR also allows the doctors to easily visualize the muscle and chest wall in the vicinity of the breast, which may be important to check for the spread of cancer.
MRI can also be used to image breast tissue and cosmetic implants. Implants can obscure some of the breast tissue on conventional x-ray mammography images. This is because x-rays used for mammographic imaging of the breasts cannot penetrate silicone or saline implants well enough to image the overlying or underlying breast tissue. MRI does not have this limitation.
MRI can image the breast tissue that is compressed by an implant. However, x-ray mammography is still the best tool for evaluating breast tissue and for screening and diagnosing breast cancer. MRI requires intravenous gadolinium contrast, is much more expensive than conventional mammography and has limitations in sensitivity and specificity. There is no routine recommendation for using MRI as a cancer screening tool in women with implants, although it can be helpful in selected cases.
Magnetic resonance is the imaging method of choice to evaluate gel breast implants and to check for ruptures or leaks. MRI provides very good spatial resolution (detail) and excellent contrast resolution and enables MR to clearly visualize breast implants and their condition.