Recently, we have experimentally demonstrated a new form of cross-sectional, coherence-gated fluorescence imaging referred to as SD-FCT (’spectral-domain fluorescence coherence tomography‘). Imaging in SD-FCT is accomplished by spectrally detecting self-interference of the spontaneous emission of fluorophores, thereby providing depth-resolved information on the axial positions of fluorescent probes. Here, we present a theoretical investigation of the factors affecting the detected SD-FCT signal through scattering media. An imaging equation for SD-FCT is derived that includes the effects of defocusing, numerical-aperture, and the optical properties of the medium. A comparison between the optical sectioning capabilities of SD-FCT and confocal microscopy is also presented. Our results suggest that coherence gating in fluorescence imaging may provide an improved approach for depth-resolved imaging of fluorescently labeled samples; high axial resolution (a few microns) can be achieved with low numerical apertures (NA<0.09) while maintaining a large depth of field (a few hundreds of microns) in a relatively low scattering medium (6 mean free paths), whereas moderate NA’s can be used to enhance depth selectivity in more highly scattering biological samples.
©2007 Optical Society of America
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