Objectives: This study aimed to evaluate whether polarimetry, performed using a modified optical frequency domain imaging (OFDI) system, can improve the assessment of histological features relevant to characterizing human coronary atherosclerosis.
Background: The microscopic structure and organization of the arterial wall influence the polarization of the infrared light used by OFDI. Modification of the OFDI apparatus, along with recently developed image reconstruction methods, permits polarimetric measurements simultaneously with conventional OFDI cross-sectional imaging through standard intravascular imaging catheters.
Methods: The main coronary arteries of 5 cadaveric human hearts were imaged with an OFDI system capable of providing polarimetric assessment. Cross-sectional views of tissue birefringence, measured in refractive index units, and depolarization, expressed as the ratio of depolarized signal to total intensity, were reconstructed, together with conventional OFDI images. Following imaging, the vessels underwent histological evaluation to enable interpretation of the observed polarization features of individual tissue components.
Results: Birefringence in fibrous tissue was significantly higher than in intimal tissue with minimal abnormality (0.44 × 10-3 vs. 0.33 × 10-3; p < 0.0001). Birefringence was highest in the tunica media (p < 0.0001), consistent with its high smooth muscle cell content, cells known to associate with birefringence. In fibrous areas, birefringence showed fine spatial features and close correspondence with the histological appearance of collagen. In contrast, necrotic cores and regions rich in lipid elicited significant depolarization (p < 0.0001). Depolarization was also evident in locations of cholesterol crystals and macrophages.
Conclusions: Intravascular measurements of birefringence and depolarization can be obtained using conventional OFDI catheters in conjunction with a modified console and signal processing algorithms. Polarimetric measurements enhance conventional OFDI by providing additional information related to the tissue composition and offer quantitative metrics enabling characterization of plaque features.

Additional Metadata
Keywords Cholesterol crystals, Collagen, Optical coherence tomography, Optical frequency domain imaging, Polarized light
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jcmg.2017.09.023, hdl.handle.net/1765/103691
Journal JACC: Cardiovascular Imaging
Villiger, P.M, Otsuka, K. (Kenichiro), Karanasos, A, Doradla, P. (Pallavi), Ren, J. (Jian), Lippok, N. (Norman), … Bouma, B.E. (2017). Coronary Plaque Microstructure and Composition Modify Optical Polarization. JACC: Cardiovascular Imaging. doi:10.1016/j.jcmg.2017.09.023