Selecting Clinical Images
For all submissions:
All images for each 4-view exam must be from the same patient.
Select cases consisting of CC and MLO images of both breasts.
Only submit 4 images for each examination.
Only select cases where the entire breast can be imaged in a single exposure on each projection.
Do not anonymize your images. Images must be labeled with the MQSA-required image identification information; ACR reviewers will evaluate this. All images must be labeled with MQSA-required image identification information, which can normally be found in the DICOM header. Information required for labeling must be available in the DICOM header of the image.
Do not submit images that are performed on models or volunteers. Any image submitted must be of a patient who needed a mammogram, typically for screening reasons. The exam must have been formally interpreted, and the interpreting physician must have sent a report to the patient’s referring physician and a lay letter to the patient.
Images from male patients may not be submitted. The ACR needs to evaluate images from patients that are typically examined by your facility, and the vast majority of mammography examinations are of women.
There is no patient age limit for images submitted for accreditation review; however, images for accreditation review are typically chosen from patients recommended for screening mammography, and the ACR Practice Guideline for the Performance of Screening and Diagnostic Mammography states that screening mammography is indicated for asymptomatic women 40 years of age or older.
The images must be of “final interpretation quality”.
The lead interpreting physician must review and approve the clinical images.
Images must be processed (marked “For Presentation”)
For initial, renewal, repeat or reinstatement accreditation:
The clinical and phantom images from each unit must be taken within 30 days of each other, and from the current testing cycle (the date the testing packet was issued).
One fatty case and one dense case
BI‑RADS® Assessment Category 1, negative. If you cannot submit “negative” images (e.g., you do diagnostic exams only), call the ACR. If ACR reviewers determine that any submitted cases require additional evaluation or follow-up the Lead interpreting Physician must attest that they will review the findings and follow up with the patient as appropriate before a final accreditation report is issued.
The images must be from the date specified in the validation image check instruction email (clinical images only).
This is a review of your facility’s everyday work.
If available on the specified day, one fatty and one dense breast example.
Specific information regarding Digital Breast Tomosynthesis (DBT) is available here.
If an ACR reviewer finds an abnormality, this will delay the facility’s accreditation. The FDA requires the accrediting body to return the images to the facility and the ACR requires the facility’s supervising radiologist to follow up as appropriate and return the completed Abnormality Follow-Up Attestation before the ACR will issue a final report. Failure to comply could result in a failure or deficiency for non-compliance. The ACR will randomly review facilities for compliance with this policy. We strongly suggest that all case review and any patient follow-up be documented. If an ACR reviewer finds an abnormality, the review of images is complete; therefore, it is not necessary to submit replacement images.
In order for ACR Clinical Image Reviewers to assess your image quality for a range of breast types, you must submit one complete exam of fatty breasts and one complete exam of dense breasts for accreditation (initial, renewal, repeat or reinstatement cycles).
Fatty Breast Images
Must meet one of the two fatty BI-RADS Breast Composition Categories: “the breasts are almost entirely fatty” or “there are scattered areas of fibroglandular density.” Images submitted should be at least as fatty as the example below.
Dense Breast Images
Must meet one of the two dense BI-RADS Breast Composition Categories: “the breasts are heterogeneously dense, which may obscure small masses” or “the breasts are extremely dense, which lowers the sensitivity of mammography.” Images submitted should be at least as dense as the example below.
If the ACR Reviewers do not believe that your images are of an appropriate density, we will return them to you and request another examination. If you are unable to find a case with dense or fatty breasts for submission, please contact the ACR for assistance.
At least 2 ACR radiologist reviewers will score 8 parameters on each case (for more information regarding review criteria, see the Clinical Image Evaluation section of the 1999 ACR Mammography Quality Control Manual):
C. Exposure Level
H. Exam Identification
When selecting your clinical images, please note these additional requirements:
Although not recommended, you may submit clinical images with a mole or nipple marker as long as the mole or nipple is clearly marked in a conventional manner.
Facilities may use lead laterality (L/R) markers during the exposure or may place computer generated markers on the image after the exposure using computer annotation. The College considers these methods equivalent. The same potential for error exists whether the computer or lead markers are used. It is the technologist’s responsibility to ensure that the annotation is correct.
The ACR realizes that not all artifacts can be eliminated (for example, it is rare to see a screen-film image with no dust artifacts); however, artifacts should not be so numerous or severe that they significantly degrade image quality.
For FFDM, adjust the image display and process the image as typically done when interpreting digital mammography. Image processing algorithms allow for manipulation of fine differences in image contrast and/or detail. Different manufacturers will use different algorithms to process the clinical image for display on the workstation. You should contact your FFDM unit’s and/or workstation’s manufacturer for further information on their system’s algorithm.
Patient Identification and Labeling
Images are an important part of the medical record. One of the requirements for clinical images is correct labeling, including patient identification.
(Applies to FDA-Approved Mammographic Modalities)
Name of patient (first and last)
Additional patient identifier (e.g., medical record number or social security number; date of birth is less desirable)
Date of examination
Standardized view and laterality codes: Radiopaque markers or identification indicating laterality (R/L) and projection/view (MLO, CC) must be placed near the aspect of the breast closest to the axilla. If radiopaque markers are used, they should be placed on the cassette holder so that they can be read directly from overhead; they should not be so large as to be distracting but should be large enough to be clearly read. Standardized abbreviations for mammography views must be employed to eliminate confusion from one facility to another. (See the “Clinical Image Quality” section of the 1999 ACR Mammography Quality Control Manual or the ACR BI-RADS® Atlas for a more complete list of view abbreviations.)
Facility name and location (must include city, state, and zip code)
Technologist identification, such as unique initials: Should be positioned either on a designated location in the patient ID area or with radiopaque letters on the cassette holder. The facility should maintain a log of technologists and their identifying initials.
Cassette/screen identification (usually an Arabic numeral written or pressed on the screen). This is used to identify screens with artifacts or defects.
Mammography unit identification number (usually a Roman numeral), if more than one unit in the facility.
The ACR also recommends the following identification on each image:
A patient ID system for hard copy
More permanent than stick-on labels
Information reproduces on copy films
ID should fit squarely in its designated space, near the edge of the film
Not acceptable if any information is illegible, does not fit, or is lopsided, causing cut-off of information
Separate date stickers for hard copy
Allows for the date to be easily read with overhead light
May be color-coded by year to facilitate sorting of exams
Include target-filter combination, kVp, mAs, exposure time, compression force, compressed breast thickness and degree of obliquity
Revision History for this Article
Description of Revision(s)
Article created; FAQs incorporated; No criteria changes