Faster, Cheaper Breast MRI Performs As Well As Full-Protocol Scans

August 12, 2020

Abbreviated MRI protocols can detect and diagnose breast cancer as well as full-protocol MRI.

Abbreviated MRI has comparable diagnostic performance to a full protocol MRI with breast imaging studies, new research has revealed.

In a virtual poster presented during the International Society for Magnetic Resonance in Medicine annual meeting, investigators from the University of Cambridge School of Clinical Medicine in the United Kingdom outlined the results of their study that examined the sensitivity and specificity of an MRI protocol that only used one pre-contrast and one post-contrast image.

“This is the first study to systematically compare the diagnostic performances of [abbreviated-protocol] MRI and [full-protocol] MRI through a meta-analysis,” wrote the team, led by Gabrielle Baxter, a University of Cambridge radiology doctoral student. “For patients that require adjunct MRI imaging due to a suspicious mammogram or ultrasound examination, an abbreviated protocol can provide equivalent diagnostic accuracy.”

Not only do the study results indicate the abbreviated protocol can effectively be used for diagnostic imaging, but the shortened protocol can also reduce scan time and cost, the team asserted.

Related Content: Abbreviated MRI Outperforms 3D Mammography with Dense Breasts

Increasingly, MRI is being used with breast imaging as a sensitive and specific way to address suspicious findings identified on mammography or ultrasound, but widespread use has still been limited by longer scan times and high cost. Consequently, abbreviated protocols are gaining popularity due to the limited number of images needed, and previous research has already demonstrated comparable performance for full-protocol MRI.

Performance of Abbreviated and Full-Protocol Breast MRI

To make this determination, the team analyzed 13 studies published through July 2019 that had assessed abbreviated and full-protocol MRI with breast imaging. Overall, these publications – five based on a general screening population and eight on an enriched cohort – included 4,020 patients who experienced 602 cancers.

According to their literature analysis, abbreviated and full-protocol MRIs were not significantly different in sensitivity, specificity, or area under the curve, and abbreviated protocols produced equivalent diagnostic performance with the patients from the enriched cohort. These results show the abbreviated protocol is satisfactory for diagnostic imaging, they said.

Even though their study was based on a small number of publications, the team said their results support the continued use of and research around abbreviated MRI protocols.

“[Abbreviated] MRI and [full-protocol] MRI achieve comparable diagnostic accuracy in screening studies and an equivalent diagnostic accuracy in enriched cohorts,” they said, “though the number of studies to date is limited.”