High strain spots in the vessel wall indicate the presence of vulnerable plaques. The majority of acute cardiovascular events are preceded by rapture of such a plaque in a coronary artery. Intracoronary optical coherence tomography (OCT) can be extended, in principle, to an elastography technique, mapping the strain in the vascular wall. However, the susceptibility of OCT to frame-to-frame decorrelation, caused by tissue and catheter motion, inhibits reliable tissue displacement tracking and has to date obstructed the development of OCT-based intravascular elastography. We introduce a new technique for intravascular optical coherence elastography, which is robust against motion artifacts. Using acoustic radiation force, we apply a pressure to deform the tissue synchronously with the line scan rate of the OCT instrument. Radial tissue displacement can be tracked based on the correlation between adjacent lines, instead of subsequent frames in conventional elastography. The viability of the method is demonstrated with a simulation study. The root mean square (rms) error of the displacement estimate is 0.55 μm, and the rms error of the strain is 0.6%. It is shown that high-strain spots in the vessel wall, such as observed at the sites of vulnerable atherosclerotic lesions, can be detected with the technique. Experiments to realize this new elastographic method are presented. Simultaneous optical and ultrasonic pulse-echo tracking demonstrate that the material can be put in a high-frequency oscillatory motion with an amplitude of several micrometers, more than sufficient for accurate tracking with OCT. The resulting data are used to optimize the acoustic pushing sequence and geometry.
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