Optical Coherence Tomography: An up and coming imaging tool

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Optical coherence tomography (OCT) is an up-and-coming intravascular imaging technology. A research paper which investigated OCT and its uses in identifying unstable coronary plague was presented at the American College of Cardiology annual meeting this week in Atlanta.
   
OCT can be compared to ultrasound, though it measures the back-reflection instead of sound. The technology is particularly attractive due to its resolution which is greater than any other current imaging modality available. According to the paper, OCT has acquisition rates close to video; moreover, OCT catheters generally do not contain transducers within their frames contributing to their smaller size and comparative inexpense. Also, due to the use of light, OCT also allows for a number of spectroscopic techniques by clinicians.
   
But, nothing is perfect. The paper acknowledges that for all of its bright sides, OCT still has the significant limitation of intravascular OCT in that the imaging is attenuated by blood. Another down side is the range of its penetration of arterial walls which at maximum hits 2-3 mm; this is enough for imaging the majority of arteries, but not sufficient for some necrotic cores which means “the entire length of the core cannot be images,” states an abstract of the study.
   
Yet, despite its pros and cons, OCT remains an imaging technology that — though it needs further study — will still be an intriguing possibility for high resolution intravascular assessment of unstable coronary plaque.
   
The paper “Optical coherence tomography for identifying unstable coronary plaque” was written by Mark E. Brezinski, MD, Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. It was originally published in the International Journal of Cardiology in July 2005.