We model the photocurrent of a depth-scan (A-scan) from an optical coherence tomography (OCT) system, using a linearly polarized thermal source, as an electronically filtered doubly-stochastic Poisson process, and we obtain its time-varying second-order statistics. We derive an expression for the instantaneous signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) of time-domain OCT which is more general than the previously reported time-averaged expressions. Unlike previous work, our analysis combines shot noise, due to detection of coherent light, and photon excess noise, due to fluctuations in the optical field, into a single noise source that we refer to as the photoelectron noise. Similar to previous results, our SNR is dominated by a term similar to shot-noise when the reference optical power is low and by a term similar to photon excess noise when the reference power is high.

© 2005 Optical Society of America

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