A new FLIm-IVUS imaging catheter has been devised at Professor Laura Marcu’s lab in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at UC Davis to provide a comprehensive insight into how the atherosclerotic plaques are formed in the coronary arteries.
Till now, angiography and intravascular ultrasound were used to determine the formation of plaques in the coronary arteries. However, angiography could not detect dangerous plaques that didn’t cause constriction in blood vessels and intravascular ultrasound failed to identify the finer details about the risk of plaque rupture.
These drawbacks have been overcome by the new device that combines intravascular ultrasound with fluorescence lifetime imaging in a single catheter. Being flexible, the catheter can traverse the finest of the human coronary arteries and provide simultaneous information about the structural and biochemical composition of the plaque.
An optical fibre in the catheter sends short laser pulses into the surrounding tissue, which fluoresces with tiny flashes of light in return. The ultrasound probe in the catheter reveals the structural information of the blood vessel.
The new catheter has been tested in living swine hearts and samples of human coronary arteries where it provided a comprehensive insight into how the atherosclerotic plaque forms and how it shrinks in response to a therapy.
Though the technique is waiting for FDA approval for testing in human patients, it has improved the understanding of the mechanisms behind plaque rupture that helps in better prediction of heart attacks in patients.