Dynamic, contrast-enhanced magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a highly sensitive imaging modality used for screening and diagnostic purposes. Nonmass enhancement (NME) is commonly seen on MRI of the breast. However, the pathologic correlates of NME have not been extensively explored. Consequently, concordance between MRI and pathologic findings in such cases may be uncertain and this uncertainty may cause the need for additional procedures.


To examine the histologic alterations that correspond to NME on MRI.


We performed a retrospective search for women who underwent breast MRI between March 2014 and December 2016 and identified 130 NME lesions resulting in biopsy. The MRI findings and pathology slides for all cases were reviewed. The follow-up findings on any subsequent excisions were also noted.


Among the 130 cases, the core needle biopsy showed 1 or more benign lesions without atypia in 80 cases (62%), atypical lesions in 21 (16%), ductal carcinoma in situ in 22 (17%), and invasive carcinoma in 7 (5%). Review of the imaging features demonstrated some statistically significant differences in lesions that corresponded to malignant lesions as compared with benign alterations, including homogeneous or clumped internal enhancement, type 3 kinetics, and T2 dark signal; however, there was considerable overlap of features between benign and malignant lesions overall. Of 130 cases, 54 (41.5%) underwent subsequent excision with only 6 cases showing a worse lesion on excision.


This study illustrates that NME can be associated with benign, atypical, and/or malignant pathology and biopsy remains indicated given the overlap of radiologic features.

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Author notes

Slanetz receives royalties from UpToDate, an online educational resource by Wolters Kluwer. The other authors have no relevant financial interest in the products or companies described in this article.