Optical frequency domain imaging (OFDI) is widely used to characterize lipidic-atherosclerotic plaques, shown as signal-poor regions with diffuse borders, in clinical setting. Given that lipid components are common to both fibroatheroma (FA) and pathological intimal thickening (PIT), it is unclear whether OFDI can be used to accurately distinguish between FA and PIT. This study evaluated the differences in OFDI findings between FA and PIT in comparison with histopathology.
A total of 631 histological cross-sections from 14 autopsy hearts were analyzed for the comparison between OFDI and histological images. Of those, 190 (30%) sections were diagnosed with PIT and 120 (19%) with FA. All OFDI images were matched with histology and the OFDI signal attenuation rate was calculated from an exponential. The lipid length was measured longitudinally, and the lipid arc was measured with a protractor centered in the center of the lumen.
There was no significant difference in the OFDI signal attenuation rate between FA and PIT (3.09 ± 1.04 versus 2.79 ± 1.20, p = 0.13). However, the lipid length was significantly longer and the maximum lipid arc was significantly larger in FA than in PIT (7.5 [4.3–10.3] mm versus 4.3 [2.7–5.8] mm, p < 0.0001, and 125 [101–174]° versus 96 [74–131]°, p < 0.0001, respectively).
OFDI may be capable of discriminating advanced lipid plaques from early stage atherosclerosis based on the longitudinal and circumferential extent of signal-poor region.