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AJR Am J Roentgenol. 2012 Apr;198(4):W373-80. doi: 10.2214/AJR.10.6272.

Background parenchymal enhancement on breast MRI: impact on diagnostic performance.

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  • 1Department of Radiology, Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, WA 98109, USA.



Breast density is documented to reduce sensitivity and specificity of mammography. However, little is known regarding the effect of normal background parenchymal enhancement on accuracy of breast MRI. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effect of background parenchymal enhancement on MRI diagnostic performance.


A review of our established MRI data identified all women undergoing breast MRI from March 1, 2006, through June 30, 2007. Prospectively reported background parenchymal enhancement categories of minimal, mild, moderate, or marked (anticipated BI-RADS MRI lexicon definitions) and assessments were extracted from the database for each patient. Outcomes were determined by pathologic analysis, imaging, and linkage with the regional tumor registry with a minimum of 24 months of follow-up. Patients were dichotomized into categories of minimal or mild versus moderate or marked background parenchymal enhancement. Associations with patient age, abnormal interpretation rate, positive biopsy rate, cancer yield, sensitivity, and specificity were compared using chi-square and z score tests.


The study cohort included 736 women. Moderate or marked background parenchymal enhancement was significantly more frequent among patients younger than 50 years compared with those 50 years old and older (39.7% vs 18.9%; p < 0.0001). Moderate or marked background parenchymal enhancement was also associated with a higher abnormal interpretation rate compared with minimal or mild background parenchymal enhancement (30.5% vs 23.3%; p = 0.046). Positive biopsy rate, cancer yield, sensitivity, and specificity were not significantly different according to background parenchymal enhancement category.


Increased background parenchymal enhancement on breast MRI is associated with younger patient age and higher abnormal interpretation rate. However, it is not related to significant differences in positive biopsy rate, cancer yield, sensitivity, or specificity of MRI.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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