Optical coherence tomography imaging of cardiac substrates

Christine P. Hendon, Theresa H. Lye, Xinwen Yao, Yu Gan, Charles C. Marboe


Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of morbidity and mortality in the United States. Knowledge of a patient’s heart structure will help to plan procedures, potentially identifying arrhythmia substrates, critical structures to avoid, detect transplant rejection, and reduce ambiguity when interpreting electrograms and functional measurements. Similarly, basic research of numerous cardiac diseases would greatly benefit from structural imaging at cellular scale. For both applications imaging on the scale of a myocyte is needed, which is approximately 100 µm × 10 µm. The use of optical coherence tomography (OCT) as a tool for characterizing cardiac tissue structure and function has been growing in the past two decades. We briefly review OCT principles and highlight important considerations when imaging cardiac muscle. In particular, image penetration, tissue birefringence, and light absorption by blood during in vivo imaging are important factors when imaging the heart with OCT. Within the article, we highlight applications of cardiac OCT imaging including imaging heart tissue structure in small animal models, quantification of myofiber organization, monitoring of radiofrequency ablation (RFA) lesion formation, structure-function analysis enabled by functional extensions of OCT and multimodal analysis and characterizing important substrates within the human heart. The review concludes with a summary and future outlook of OCT imaging the heart, which is promising with progress in optical catheter development, functional extensions of OCT, and real time image processing to enable dynamic imaging and real time tracking during therapeutic procedures.