Photoacoustic imaging gives researchers an inside look at arterial plaque

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An international team of researchers from Purdue University in Indiana and the Shanghai Institute of Optics and Fine Mechanics in Shanghai, China, have developed a highly sensitive imaging probe capable of more accurately assessing impending risks to patients resulting from arterial plaques.

Known as intravascular photoacoustic imaging (IVPA), the innovative tool produces 3D images of arteries from the inside out, allowing doctors to diagnose plaques on the brink of rupturing, said lead author and postdoctoral researcher Yingchun Cao.

"The most exciting part of this work … is the collinear design of the catheter that enables the intravascular photoacoustic imaging system to see much deeper and much more lipid information in the arteries," he said in a university press release. "That could provide valuable help for the doctor to better identify and diagnose the plaque vulnerability in patients."

Arterial plague accumulation, also known as atherosclerosis, is a common form of cardiovascular disease, which remains the world’s leading cause of death.

The newly designed probe improves on previous instruments in terms of plague assessment by giving doctors a way to accurately diagnose rupture risks in living patients.

Read more about the scientists’ research.