Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) Images | MedStar Health

Using infrared light to create images of blood vessels

Optical coherence tomography (OCT) imaging is similar to intravascular ultrasound, but instead of using sound, it uses infrared light to create more detailed images from inside the blood vessels.

We have one of the highest volume and most advanced cardiac imaging programs in the mid-Atlantic region.

The detail from an OCT image can help your doctor decide the best location to place stents or to monitor the condition of a stent after it has been placed. The images also can be used to determine the amount of plaque buildup within the arteries.

What to expect during optical coherence tomography

Your doctor may ask that you not eat or drink before your procedure. You’ll wear a hospital gown and lie still on a table. A nurse will insert an IV and give you a mild sedative to help you relax, but you’ll remain conscious. You will be connected to an electrograph with circular patches called electrodes that are placed on your chest.

A small amount of hair may be shaved and a local anesthetic injection will be used to numb the area in your groin or arm where your doctor will insert a thin, flexible tube called a catheter into a blood vessel. They will guide the catheter to the area being examined within the blood vessel. A contrast dye likely will be injected to flush the area and allow for better images. Light is then bounced through your blood vessel, and the image is captured by the OCT catheter.

When the images have been recorded, the catheter will be removed, and pressure will be applied to the insertion site. You shouldn’t feel the catheter moving through your body, but you may feel some warmth as the contrast dye is injected.

After the procedure, you will need to lie flat to minimize the risk of bleeding and for observation. You will likely be able to go home after the procedure, but will need to have someone drive you.

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Have questions for our heart and vascular program? Email us at AskMHVI@medstar.net.