Optical Coherence Tomography


What you can expect

Many people are already familiar with ultrasound, which uses sound waves to create images of internal structures in the body. Optical coherence tomography (OCT) works similarly to ultrasound but uses infrared light instead of sound waves.

The process of an OCT involves the following:

  1. During your OCT procedure, your doctor temporarily inserts a catheter through a puncture site in your skin.
  2. Your doctor then threads the catheter over a guidewire to the area of interest within the blood vessel.
  3. Light is emitted from the catheter, and the light that bounces back is collected and analyzed to provide highly detailed images of the interior of the blood vessel.


OCT has been used in the coronary space for more than 20 years now and is widely considered to provide minimal risk to patients. Complications are rare (occurring in less than 1% of patients) but include arrhythmias (abnormal heartbeats); hypotension (low blood pressure); or a blockage, dissection, or spasm of the artery. The test on its own doesn’t use X-ray technology and, therefore, doesn’t present radiation risks. However, OCT is always performed in conjunction with another imaging test called a coronary angiogram, so the risks associated with having an angiogram will apply here.