IS Case 254: Hair artifact

Scott Cassar, MD

Imaging Sciences URMC 2008
Publication Date: 2009-05-26


Patient is a middle aged woman presenting for a screening mammography.


Left MLO projection partially shows numerous curvilinear lines in the region of the axilla.


Hair artifact


There are many factors which may cause artifacts in mammography and these include the patient, the technologist, the mammography unit, and the processing unit.

Besides motion, other examples of patient related artifacts include any accessory item superimposed over the image such as antiperspirant, powders, pharmaceutical patches, jewelry, and as in this case, hair. Hair artifact will typically appear as large, curvilinear white lines but may possibly mimic calcifications. Hair is usually seen on the craniocaudal projection and newer mammography units have extended face shields which minimize this artifact.

Technology related artifacts may result from patient positioning, improper film handling, and darkroom errors. There are many variables in the mammography unit which may fail causing an artifact. These include failure of the collimation mirror or the reciprocating grid or the compression paddle. The processing unit contributes artifacts such as static, dirt, scratches, and problems related to the developer.

Many artifacts on mammography are easily identifiable when familiar to the interpreter. Being able to recognize artifacts is necessary as these may be misinterpreted as a lesion or possibly mask a true lesion.


  1. Hogge JP, Palmer CH, Muller CC, et al. Quality assurance in mammography: artifact analysis. Radiographics. 1999 Mar-Apr;19(2):503-22. [PMID: 10194792]

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