Technology Insight: optical coherence tomography--current status and future development

Nat Clin Pract Cardiovasc Med. 2006 Mar;3(3):154-62; quiz 172. doi: 10.1038/ncpcardio0482.


The understanding of concepts in coronary artery disease, such as the vulnerable or high-risk plaque, which accounts for many acute coronary events arising from non-flow-limiting coronary lesions, has advanced remarkably. Although coronary angiography is an established imaging technique for visualizing atherosclerotic disease, it is limited by its two-dimensional imaging aspect and a low sensitivity for identifying lesions in the presence of positive remodeling and diffuse disease. Moreover, coronary atherosclerotic plaques cannot be characterized. Although intravascular ultrasound is currently the most commonly employed adjunctive method to better define lesions, it is limited by low resolution. The development of new technologies for improved coronary plaque characterization has, thus, been desired. Optical coherence tomography is a developing technique that uses near-infrared light for the cross-sectional visualization of the vessel wall at the microscopic level. It enables excellent resolution of coronary architecture and precise characterization of plaque architecture. Quantification of macrophages within the plaque is also possible. These capabilities allow precise identification of the most common type of vulnerable plaque, the thin-cap fibroatheroma. Here, we discuss results from clinical studies which indicate that optical coherence tomography is a promising imaging technique for improved characterization of the coronary atherosclerotic plaque.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Coronary Artery Disease / pathology*
  • Coronary Vessels / diagnostic imaging*
  • Humans
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Tomography, Optical Coherence* / methods
  • Tomography, Optical Coherence* / trends
  • Ultrasonography