Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Whizbang Stuff To Image Coronary Arteries

Imaging the coronary arteries is difficult, but a new technology may soon make the process much simpler. The method, called optical coherence technology, has been used previously in ophthalmology, but with certain modifications may now be applied to coronary vessels as well. What is OCT though?
OCT works by projecting a beam of light onto a surface, which then reflects a small amount of light back to the device. Due to the high speed at which light travels, reflection time is too brief to be measured directly. Instead, OCT relies on an interferometer, which measures the interference of noncoherent light. Because these light waves have a short wavelength, high-resolution images can be generated. (Intravascular ultrasound (IVUS) could also be used, but it typically has a resolution of 80 microns to 130 microns. OCT devices already on the market are able to measure down to the 15-micron level, providing far more detail.)

Nerdy, yes, but kinda neat too. The potential for the technology seems appealing:
The increased accuracy of OCT technology allows doctors to observe how well the stent is adhering to the arterial walls and to track small amounts of endothelial regrowth that would go unnoticed by IVUS. It could also be used postoperatively to check healing. The resolution of this scan is fine enough to allow doctors to identify small but significant plaque deposits that existing technology might overlook. The technology could also be used to carefully target biopsies, as cancerous cells could be identified in much smaller quantities than currently possible.
No, I don't have anything to gain financially if this becomes the new standard, but it just gives me pause as I try to imagine how medicine will be when I actually am out there as a full practicing physician. Neat stuff.

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