, 36:417 | Cite as

The diagnostic value of intracoronary optical coherence tomography

Main topic/CME


Optical coherence tomography (OCT) is a novel light-based imaging modality for application in the coronary circulation. Compared to conventional intravascular ultrasound, OCT has a ten-fold higher image resolution. This advantage has seen OCT successfully applied in the assessment of atherosclerotic plaque, stent apposition, and tissue coverage, heralding a new era in intravascular coronary imaging. The present article discusses the diagnostic value of OCT, both in cardiovascular research as well as in potential clinical application.

The unparalleled high image resolution and strong contrast between the coronary lumen and the vessel wall structure enable fast and reliable image interpretation. OCT makes it possible to visualize the presence of atherosclerotic plaque in order to characterize the structure and extent of coronary plaque and to quantify lumen dimensions, as well as the extent of lumen narrowing, in unprecedented detail. Based on optical properties, OCT is able to distinguish different tissue types, such as fibrous, lipid-rich, necrotic, or calcified tissue. Furthermore, OCT is able to cover the visualization of a variety of features of atherosclerotic plaques that have been associated with rapid lesion progression and clinical events, such as thin cap fibroatheroma, fibrous cap thickness, dense macrophage infiltration, and thrombus formation. These unique features allow the use of OCT to assess patients with acute coronary syndrome and to study the dynamic nature of coronary atherosclerosis in vivo and over time. This permits new insights into plaque progression, regression, and rupture, as well as the study of effects of therapies aimed at modulating these developments.

Today’s OCT technology allows high detail resolution as well as fast and safe clinical image acquisition. These unique features have established OCT as the gold standard for the assessment of coronary stents. This technique makes it possible to study stent expansion, peri-procedural vessel trauma, and the interaction of the stent with the vessel wall down to the level of individual stent struts, both acutely as well as in the long term, where it is has proven extremely sensitive to the detection of even minor amounts of tissue coverage. These qualities render OCT indispensable to addressing vexing clinical questions such as the relationship of drug-eluting stent deployment, vascular healing, the true time course of endothelial stent coverage, and late stent thrombosis. This may also better guide the optimal duration of dual anti-platelet therapy that currently remains unclear and relatively empirical.

In the future, OCT might emerge, parallel to its undisputed position in research, as the tool of choice in all clinical scenarios where angiography is limited by its nature as a two-dimensional luminogram.


Morphology Intravascular coronary imaging Coronary circulation Atherosclerotic plaque Coronary stents 

Zur Wertigkeit der intrakoronaren optischen Kohärenztomographie


Die intrakoronare optische Kohärenztomographie (OCT) ist ein relativ neues optisches Verfahren zur Beurteilung der Koronarmorphologie. OCT erstellt, ähnlich wie die konventionelle intrakoronare Ultraschallbildgebung, ein Querschnittsbild der Gefäßwand, mit einer 10-fach höheren Auflösung. Der Beitrag fasst die Erkenntnisse zum diagnostischen Vermögen der OCT zusammen und bewertet sie im Hinblick auf eine mögliche breitere klinische Anwendung.

OCT erlaubt eine klare und detaillierte Darstellung endoluminaler Strukturen. Atherosklerotische Plaques können schon im frühen Stadium sicher erkannt und detailliert erfasst werden. Verschiedene Plaquekomponenten können aufgrund ihrer optischen Eigenschaften verlässlich typisiert werden, in lipidreiches, nekrotisches, verkalktes und fibröses Gewebe. Darüber hinaus können morphologische Marker, die in Studien mit klinischen Ereignissen assoziiert wurden, wie ausgedehnte Fibroatherome, dünne fibröse Kappen, Makrophageninfiltrationen und Thromben diagnostiziert werden. Mit diesem diagnostischen Profil ermöglicht OCT Analysen bei akutem Koronarsyndrom und vor allem longitudinale Untersuchungen zum Verständnis von Plaqueprogression, -regression sowie -ruptur und ihrer therapeutischen Modifikation. Wegen der hohen Detailauflösung von OCT etablierte sich diese Methode rasch zum neuen Goldstandard zur Beurteilung von Koronarstents, sowohl im akuten als auch im Langzeitverlauf. OCT erlaubt die Analyse individueller Stent-Struts, ihrer Apposition und Neointimabekleidung im Lauf der Zeit. Diese Informationen sind wertvoll für die Entwicklung von Koronarstents, aber auch zur Therapie von Stentrestenose und Thrombose. In Zukunft können diese Einblicke möglicherweise auch zu einer Optimierung der antithrombozytären Therapie beitragen.

Die hohe Detailauflösung sowie die schnelle, patienten- und anwenderfreundliche Bildgebung machen die OCT, neben ihrer längst akzeptierten Rolle in der Forschung, prinzipiell attraktiv für eine breitere klinische Anwendung in all den Situationen, in denen die Angiographie aufgrund ihres zweidimensionalen Luminogrammcharakters limitiert ist.


Morphology Intravaskuläre Bildgebung Koronarkreislauf Atherosklerotische Plaque Koronarstents 


Conflict of interest

The corresponding author states that there are no conflicts of interest.


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Copyright information

© Urban & Vogel, Muenchen 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • E. Regar
    • 1
  • J. Ligthart
    • 1
  • N. Bruining
    • 1
  • G. van Soest
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Interventional CardiologyThorax Center, Room Ba 585, Erasmus MCRotterdamThe Netherlands

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