Intravascular optical coherence tomography (IVOCT) is rapidly becoming the method of choice for the in vivo investigation of coronary artery disease. While IVOCT visualizes atherosclerotic plaques with a resolution <20µm, image analysis in terms of tissue composition is currently performed by a time-consuming manual procedure based on the qualitative interpretation of image features. We illustrate an algorithm for the automated and systematic characterization of IVOCT atherosclerotic tissue. The proposed method consists in a supervised classification of image pixels according to textural features combined with the estimated value of the optical attenuation coefficient. IVOCT images of 64 plaques, from 49 in vivo IVOCT data sets, constituted the algorithm's training and testing data sets. Validation was obtained by comparing automated analysis results to the manual assessment of atherosclerotic plaques. An overall pixel-wise accuracy of 81.5% with a classification feasibility of 76.5% and per-class accuracy of 89.5%, 72.1% and 79.5% for fibrotic, calcified and lipid-rich tissue respectively, was found. Moreover, measured optical properties were in agreement with previous results reported in literature. As such, an algorithm for automated tissue characterization was developed and validated using in vivo human data, suggesting that it can be applied to clinical IVOCT data. This might be an important step towards the integration of IVOCT in cardiovascular research and routine clinical practice.
Keywords: (100.0100) Image processing; (100.2960) Image analysis; (100.4995) Pattern recognition, metrics; (170.0170) Medical optics and biotechnology; (170.6935) Tissue characterization.