Invasive imaging technologies: Can we reconcile light and sound?
Since the introduction of intravascular, catheter-based invasive imaging and diagnostic tools in the catheterization laboratories two decades ago, the functional assessment of angiographically moderate or ambiguous lesions by fractional flow reserve measurements represents the established standard of care today. Likewise, intravascular ultrasound (IVUS) is widely accepted to guide treatment strategy in complex lesions, such as long or left main stem lesions. Developments are driven by the clinical interest to optimize treatment, prevent periprocedural complications, understand treatment failure and understand progression of atherosclerosis. As a result, a variety of devices are now clinically available that enable detection and monitoring of specific plaque features over time, such as the presence of necrotic core by IVUS-VH, a lipid-core plaque by near infrared (NIR) spectroscopy or a thin fibrous cap atheroma by optical coherence tomography (OCT). As the physical boundaries for both light and sound are different, these imaging technologies offer different advantages and limitations. Light-based technologies offer unparalleled high image resolution (OCT) or unparalleled high sensitivity and specificity for distinct plaque components (NIR spectroscopy), whereas conventional IVUS offers a much better tissue penetration. From a clinical perspective, both types of information are valuable. Ideally, this information should easily and in real time be available in the catheterization laboratory, consisting of co-registered datasets gained during a single catheter pullback. On this background, a combined NIR spectroscopy and IVUS catheter has recently been introduced for clinical use. The article discusses the potential and limitations of these different technologies. They may allow advanced coronary plaque diagnosis in a fast, accurate, reliable, user- and patient-friendly manner and, as such, can help to improve clinical practice today and therapeutic options in the future.