3.0 Tesla breast magnetic resonance imaging in patients with nipple discharge when mammography and ultrasound fail

Eur Radiol. 2015 May;25(5):1285-93. doi: 10.1007/s00330-014-3521-2. Epub 2014 Nov 30.


Objectives: To compare 3.0 Tesla breast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) with galactography for detection of benign and malignant causes of nipple discharge in patients with negative mammography and ultrasound.

Methods: We prospectively evaluated 56 breasts of 50 consecutive patients with nipple discharge who had inconspicuous mammography and ultrasound, using 3.0 Tesla breast MRI with a dedicated 16-channel breast coil, and then compared the results with galactography. Histopathological diagnoses and follow-ups were used as reference standard. Lesion size estimated on MRI was compared with the size at histopathology.

Results: Sensitivity and specificity of MRI vs. galactography for detecting pathologic findings were 95.7 % vs. 85.7 % and 69.7 % vs. 33.3 %, respectively. For the supposed concrete pathology based on MRI findings, the specificity was 67.6 % and the sensitivity 77.3 % (PPV 60.7 %, NPV 82.1 %). Eight malignant lesions were detected (14.8 %). The estimated size at breast MRI showed excellent correlation with the size at histopathology (Pearson's correlation coefficient 0.95, p < 0.0001).

Conclusions: MRI of the breast at 3.0 Tesla is an accurate imaging test and can replace galactography in the workup of nipple discharge in patients with inconspicuous mammography and ultrasound.

Key points: • Breast MRI is an excellent diagnostic tool for patients with nipple discharge. • MRI of the breast reveals malignant lesions despite inconspicuous mammography and ultrasound. • MRI of the breast has greater sensitivity and specificity than galactography. • Excellent correlation of lesion size measured at MRI and histopathology was found.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Breast / pathology
  • Breast Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Breast Diseases / pathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Mammography
  • Middle Aged
  • Nipple Aspirate Fluid*
  • Nipples / pathology*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Ultrasonography, Mammary