Using optical coherence tomography and intravascular ultrasound imaging to quantify coronary plaque cap thickness and vulnerability: a pilot study

Rui Lv, Akiko Maehara, Mitsuaki Matsumura, Liang Wang, Qingyu Wang, Caining Zhang, Xiaoya Guo, Habib Samady, Don P. Giddens, Jie Zheng, Gary S. Mintz, Dalin Tang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Background: Detecting coronary vulnerable plaques in vivo and assessing their vulnerability have been great challenges for clinicians and the research community. Intravascular ultrasound (IVUS) is commonly used in clinical practice for diagnosis and treatment decisions. However, due to IVUS limited resolution (about 150–200 µm), it is not sufficient to detect vulnerable plaques with a threshold cap thickness of 65 µm. Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) has a resolution of 15–20 µm and can measure fibrous cap thickness more accurately. The aim of this study was to use OCT as the benchmark to obtain patient-specific coronary plaque cap thickness and evaluate the differences between OCT and IVUS fibrous cap quantifications. A cap index with integer values 0–4 was also introduced as a quantitative measure of plaque vulnerability to study plaque vulnerability. Methods: Data from 10 patients (mean age: 70.4; m: 6; f: 4) with coronary heart disease who underwent IVUS, OCT, and angiography were collected at Cardiovascular Research Foundation (CRF) using approved protocol with informed consent obtained. 348 slices with lipid core and fibrous caps were selected for study. Convolutional Neural Network (CNN)-based and expert-based data segmentation were performed using established methods previously published. Cap thickness data were extracted to quantify differences between IVUS and OCT measurements. Results: For the 348 slices analyzed, the mean value difference between OCT and IVUS cap thickness measurements was 1.83% (p = 0.031). However, mean value of point-to-point differences was 35.76%. Comparing minimum cap thickness for each plaque, the mean value of the 20 plaque IVUS-OCT differences was 44.46%, ranging from 2.36% to 91.15%. For cap index values assigned to the 348 slices, the disagreement between OCT and IVUS assignments was 25%. However, for the OCT cap index = 2 and 3 groups, the disagreement rates were 91% and 80%, respectively. Furthermore, the observation of cap index changes from baseline to follow-up indicated that IVUS results differed from OCT by 80%. Conclusions: These preliminary results demonstrated that there were significant differences between IVUS and OCT plaque cap thickness measurements. Large-scale patient studies are needed to confirm our findings.

Original languageEnglish
Article number90
JournalBiomedical engineering online
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2020


  • Cap thickness
  • Fibrous cap
  • IVUS
  • OCT
  • Vulnerable plaque


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