Blue Cross of Idaho Logo

Express Sign-on

Thank you for registering with Blue Cross of Idaho

If you are an Individual or Family Member, please register here.

If you are a Medicare Advantage or Medicare Supplement member, please register here.

MP 2.02.29

Optical Coherence Tomography for Imaging of Coronary Arteries

Medical Policy    
Original Policy Date
Last Review Status/Date
Reviewed with literature search/2:2015
  Return to Medical Policy Index


Our medical policies are designed for informational purposes only and are not an authorization, or an explanation of benefits, or a contract.  Receipt of benefits is subject to satisfaction of all terms and conditions of the coverage.  Medical technology is constantly changing, and we reserve the right to review and update our policies periodically.


OCT has important similarities to intravascular ultrasound (IVUS), and also important differences. Ultrasound uses acoustic waves for imaging, while OCT uses near-infrared electromagnetic light waves. OCT generates cross-sectional images by using the time delay and intensity of light reflected from internal tissue structures.(1) The main obstacle to OCT is the difficulty of imaging through blood, necessitating saline flushes or occlusion techniques to obtain images. Frequency-domain OCT (FD-OCT) is a newer generation device that partially alleviates this problem by allowing faster scanning and less need for blood clearing.(1)

OCT has higher resolution than ultrasound but more shallow penetration of tissue. Tissue resolution of up to 5-10 µm has been achieved, which is approximately 10 times greater than ultrasound. However, the technique is limited by its inability to penetrate more than several millimeters in depth.(2) This is compared with IVUS, which has a penetration depth of approximately 10 mm.(1)

One goal of intravascular imaging has been to risk stratify atherosclerotic plaques regarding their risk of rupture. Intravascular ultrasound has defined a “vulnerable” coronary plaque that may be at higher risk for rupture. Characteristics of the vulnerable coronary plaque include a lipid-rich atheroma with a thin fibrous cap. Other features of vulnerable plaques include a large lipid pool within the vessel wall, a fibrous cap of 6 µm or less, and macrophages positioned near the fibrous cap.(3)

Another goal of intravascular imaging is as an adjunct to percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) with stent placement. Stent features that are often evaluated immediately postprocedure include the position of the stent, apposition of the struts to the vessel wall, and presence of thrombus or intimal flaps. These features are a measure of procedural success and optimal stent placement. Subsequent follow-up intravascular imaging at several months to 1 year poststenting can be used to evaluate neo-endothelialization on the endoluminal surface of the stent. The presence of neointimal coverage of drug-eluting stents and the absence of stent thrombosis have been correlated with favorable outcomes.(2) Therefore, the adequacy of neointimal coverage has been proposed as an intermediate outcome in clinical trials of stenting.

Regulatory Status

There are several OCT systems that have been cleared for marketing through the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) 510(k) program. For example, Lightlab Imaging, Inc. (acquired by St. Jude Medical in 2010) received FDA marketing clearance in April 2010 for its C7 Xr® Imaging System and in August 2011 for its next generation frequency domain C7 Xr® Imaging System. In January 2013, it received clearance based on substantial equivalence for its next generation C7 Xr® Imaging System with Fractional Flow Reserve (Illumien™ Optis™) system.  FDA product code: NQQ


Optical coherence tomography is considered investigational when used as an adjunct to percutaneous coronary interventions with stenting.

Optical coherence tomography is considered investigational in all other situations, including but not limited to, risk stratification of intracoronary atherosclerotic plaques and follow-up evaluation of stenting.

Policy Guidelines

Effective January 1, 2012, there are category III CPT add-on codes for this imaging:

0291T Intravascular optical coherence tomography (coronary native vessel or graft) during diagnostic evaluation and/or therapeutic intervention, including imaging supervision, interpretation, and report; initial vessel (List separately in addition to primary procedure)

0292T each additional vessel (List separately in addition to primary procedure)

Benefit Application
BlueCard/National Account Issues

State or federal mandates (e.g., FEP) may dictate that all FDA-approved devices, drugs, or biologics may not be considered investigational, and thus these devices may be assessed only on the basis of their medical necessity.


This policy was created in February 2012 and updated periodically with literature reviews, most recently through January 5, 2015.

Optical coherence tomography (OCT) is intended as an alternative to intravascular ultrasound (IVUS) for imaging the coronary arteries. Therefore, the most relevant type of studies in evaluating the utility of OCT includes a head-to-head comparison between OCT and IVUS. These studies are limited by the lack of a true criterion standard for intravascular imaging but nevertheless can compare the frequency and type of findings between the 2 types of imaging. Single-arm case series of OCT provide less useful information. Results from case series can characterize the findings that are obtained from OCT, use these findings to predict future events, and provide important information on adverse events. However, case series provide limited data on the comparative efficacy of OCT and IVUS.

We identified literature in the following general categories of OCT use. They are:

  • Technical performance of OCT
  • Identification and risk stratification of the “vulnerable plaque”
  • Adjunctive treatment as part of percutaneous coronary interventions (PCIs)
  • Follow-up evaluation poststent placement

Technical Performance of OCT

The reliability of OCT findings was examined by Gonzalo et al.(4) These authors used a second-generation, frequency-domain OCT (FD-OCT) and evaluated the reproducibility of OCT findings according to the interstudy, interobserver, and intraobserver variability. Overall, the reproducibility of the OCT findings was high. The reproducibility of stent features such as edge dissection, tissue prolapse, intrastent dissection, and stent malapposition was 100% (=1.0). Plaque characteristics also had high reproducibility, with kappa values for interstudy, interobserver, and intraobserver variability of 0.92, 0.82, and 0.95, respectively.

Fedele et al evaluated the reproducibility of OCT lumen and length measurements.(5) In this study, OCT measurements were taken twice at intervals of 5 minutes in 25 patients undergoing coronary angiography. The per-segment and per-frame analyses showed high correlation for interobserver, intraobserver, and intrapullback comparisons for lumen area and length (R≥0.95 and p<0.001 for all correlations), indicating excellent reproducibility. Similarly, Jamil et al 6 reported good interstudy
correlation for FD-OCT in evaluation of both stented and native coronary arteries in 18 patients undergoing PCI (R²=0.99 and p<0.001 for mean lumen area and minimal lumen area for repeat evaluations of the same coronary lesion). Liu et al reported good intra- and interobserver reliability for stent length measurements, along with high correlation between OCT and IVUS for stent length measurements in 77 patients undergoing PCI with stenting.(7)

In contrast, Brugaletta et al(8) demonstrated a higher level of variability in inter- and intraobserver measurements of stent strut coverage with FD-OCT, with Κ values of 0.32 to 0.4 for interobserver measurements, depending on the OCT zoom setting, and 0.6 to 0.75 for intraobserver measurements. Stent strut coverage assessment is less standardized than other measures of vessel plaques or stents, so increased variability in measurements may be expected but should be considered in studies that use
FD-OCT to measure stent strut coverage.

Identification, Risk Stratification, and Treatment of the “Vulnerable Plaque”

A number of studies have compared OCT with IVUS for evaluation of the vulnerable plaque. One of the earliest of these studies was reported by Jang et al in 2002.(9) These authors compared the findings of 42 coronary plaques in 10 patients who underwent angiography, IVUS, and OCT. OCT had higher axial resolution compared with IVUS (13 µm vs 98 µm). All of the fibrous plaques, microcalcifications, and echolucent areas identified by IVUS were also imaged by OCT. There were additional cases of echolucent regions and intimal hyperplasia that were imaged with OCT but not seen with IVUS.

Kubo et al(10) compared OCT and IVUS for identifying and classifying vulnerable plaques. A total of 96 target lesions were examined by both OCT and IVUS, and the presence of a “vulnerable plaque” was made using standard definitions for each procedure. OCT identified 18 vulnerable plaques as evidenced by thin fibrous caps of less than 65 μm. IVUS identified 16 of 18 vulnerable plaques for a sensitivity of 89% compared with OCT. IVUS also identified an additional 11 lesions as vulnerable that did not meet the criteria by OCT. These were assumed to be false-positive IVUS results, resulting in a specificity for IVUS of 86%. The positive and negative predictive values for IVUS were 59% and 97%, respectively.

Miyamoto et al(11) studied 81 coronary lesions with a plaque burden of greater than 40%. IVUS and OCT gave somewhat different profiles of plaque characteristics. Vulnerable plaques identified by OCT had a larger plaque burden, more positive remodeling, and less fibrous plaque compared with IVUS.

The natural history of the atherosclerotic plaque is not well-understood. Prospective cohort studies that use OCT to define plaque characteristics, and that follow patients over time to determine the factors that predict poor outcomes such as acute coronary syndrome (ACS) or plaque progression, are important to better define the features of the vulnerable plaque that are associated with poor outcomes.

Uemura et al(12) published a prospective cohort study in 2011 that evaluated the ability of OCT to predict the natural history of coronary plaques. This study enrolled 53 patients, with 69 nonobstructing coronary plaques, who had undergone both PCI and OCT. A second coronary angiogram was performed at a mean follow-up of 7 months to assess progression of plaques. There were 13 of 69 lesions (18.8%) that showed progression on angiography at follow-up. There were several plaque characteristics defined by OCT that were predictive of progression, while the luminal diameter of the stenoses was not predictive. The factors that were found more frequently in lesions that progressed were intimal laceration (61.5% vs 8.9%, p<0.01), microchannel images (76.9% vs 14.3%, p<0.01), lipid pools (100% vs 60.7%, p=0.02), thin-cap fibroatheroma (76.9% vs 14.3%, p<0.01), macrophage images (61.5% vs 14.3%, p<0.01), and intraluminal thrombi (30.8% vs 1.8%, p<0.01). On regression analysis, the presence of fine-cap atheroma and microchannel images were strong predictors of progression, with odds ratios of approximately 20.

Another prospective cohort study that evaluated OCT in predicting the natural history of plaques was published in 2012 by Uemura et al.(12) This study enrolled 53 consecutive patients undergoing PCI and followed them for 7 months, at which time angiography was repeated. Of the 69 total obstructing lesions, 13 showed evidence of progression while 56 did not. OCT parameters predictive of progression were intimal laceration (61.5% vs 8.9%, p<0.01), presence of microchannels (76.9% vs 14.3%, p<0.01), lipid pools (100% vs 60.7%, p=0.02), macrophage images (61.5% vs 14.3%, p<0.01), and intraluminal thrombi (30.8% vs 1.8%, p<0.01).

Cross-sectional studies of risk stratification by OCT have also been published. In these studies, angiography is performed 1 time, and characteristics of the plaque as defined by OCT are correlated with plaque rupture and/or other angiography findings. Yonetsu et al(13) performed a cross-sectional study of 266 coronary plaques identified on angiography. A reliable measure of cap thickness was obtained in 188/266 patients (70.7%). The thickness of the fibrous cap was an independent predictor of plaque rupture, and the optimal cutoff for predicting plaque rupture was estimated to be less than 67 μm.

Guo et al(14) performed a cross-sectional study to evaluate characteristics of coronary plaques associated with coronary artery thrombosis. The authors included 42 patients with coronary artery plaque rupture detected by OCT during evaluation of 216 native coronary artery lesions among 170 patients. Plaques were divided into those with and without thrombus, which occurred in 64% of coronary plaques. Ruptured plaques with thrombus had significantly thinner fibrous caps than those without thrombus (57 μm vs 96 μm, p=0.008).

Jia et al(15) used data from a multicenter registry of patients who had undergone OCT imaging of coronary arteries to characterize the morphologic features on OCT of the culprit coronary plaques in ACS. They included 126 patients with ACS who underwent preintervention OCT imaging. Plaques were defined by OCT imaging as having plaque rupture (disrupted fibrous cap with underlying lipid), as an OCT-calcified nodule (disrupted fibrous cap with underlying calcium), as an OCT-erosion (intact fibrous cap), or other, and the category of culprit plaque pathology was compared with clinical and angiographic outcomes. The authors found significant differences in age, presentation with non-ST segmented elevation ACS, and vessel diameter across different types of plaque. Given these differences, the study suggests that different types of plaque features may be caused by different underlying pathologies and warrant different treatment approaches; however, without further study, this study is not sufficient to determine changes in treatment that should occur based on OCT results.

Gamou et al conducted a cross-sectional study of the association between OCT-determined coronary plaque morphology and deteriorated coronary flow after stent in 126 subjects undergoing stenting, 44 with ACS and 82 with stable angina pectoris.(16) Patients were divided into the deteriorated flow group (n=21) and the reflow group (n=105) based on deterioration of Thrombolysis in Myocardial Infarction (TIMI) flow grade on angiography after mechanical dilatation, with significant differences in the presence of reflow based on presentation (ACS vs stable angina; p<0.000). The presence of thrombus or thin-cap fibroatheroma on OCT was associated with deteriorated flow on angiography for patients with both ACS and stable angina. In multivariable modeling, thin cap fibroatheroma was independently predictive of deteriorated flow (hazard ration [HR], 12.32; 95% confidence interval, CI, 3.02 to 50.31; p<0.000).

In another study evaluating characteristics of high-risk coronary plaques, Galon et al compared plaque characteristics for non-culprit coronary plaques in patients with ST-elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI) compared with those with stable angina pectoris.(17) The study included 67 patients, 30 with STEMI and 37 with stable angina who underwent OCT evaluation after stent implantation. Compared with plaques in patients with stable angina, coronary plaques in STEMI patients had more surface area for thin-cap fibroatheroma (0.43 mm² vs 0.15 mm²; p=0.011), thinner minimum fibrous cap thickness (31.63 μm vs 47.27 μm; p=0.012), greater fractional luminal area for thin-cap fibroatheroma (1.65% vs 0.74%; p=0.046), and greater macrophage index (0.0217% vs 0.0153%; p<0.01).

Wykrzykowska et al reported on initial results of a pilot study that treated high-risk plaques with a nitinol self-expanding vShield device.(18) High-risk plaques were defined as the presence of a thin cap fibroatheroma on OCT examination. A total of 23 patients were randomized to vShield® (n=13) or medical therapy (n=10). After 6 months of follow-up, there were no dissections or plaque rupture after shield placement. There were no device-related adverse events at 6 months for patients treated with vShield.
The mean stent area increased by 9% at 6-month follow-up. This small pilot randomized controlled trial (RCT) demonstrates the feasibility of identifying patients with vulnerable plaque by OCT and treating with a vShield® device.

Section Summary

OCT can be used to evaluate morphologic features of atherosclerotic plaques and to risk-stratify plaques as to their chance of rupture. Limited evidence from studies that compare OCT with IVUS indicate that OCT picks up more abnormalities than does IVUS and is probably more accurate in classifying plaques as high risk. Because of the lack of a true criterion standard, the sensitivity and specificity of OCT for this purpose cannot be determined with certainty. Some experts consider OCT to be the criterion standard for this purpose and compare other tests with OCT.

Although OCT may be more accurate than other imaging modalities, the clinical utility is uncertain. It is not clear which patients should be assessed for a high-risk plaque, nor is it clear whether changes in management should occur as a result of testing. One clinical trial has used OCT to select patients for treatment of vulnerable plaques, but no outcome data have been reported yet. Therefore, the evidence is not sufficient to determine the effect of OCT on health outcomes when used to assess coronary atherosclerotic plaques.

Adjunctive Treatment as Part of PCIs

Several studies have demonstrated that the use of IVUS as an adjunct to PCI results in improved outcomes.(19-21) Guidelines from the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association for use of IVUS as an adjunct to PCI22 include the following:

  • Assessment of the adequacy of deployment of coronary stents, including the extent of stent apposition and determination of the minimum luminal diameter within the stent
  • Determination of the mechanism of stent restenosis and to enable selection of appropriate therapy
  • Assessment of a suboptimal angiographic result following PCI 
  • Establish presence and distribution of coronary calcium in patients for whom adjunctive rotational atherectomy is contemplated
  • Determination of plaque location and circumferential distribution for guidance of directional coronary atherectomy

OCT as an Adjunct to PCI: Comparisons with IVUS

One randomized trial, and a number of nonrandomized comparative studies have compared OCT with IVUS as an adjunct to PCIs. Habara et al performed a small open-label RCT comparing OCT with IVUS in 70 patients undergoing stent implantation.(23) Outcomes were primarily measures of optimal stent deployment, such mean stent area and stent expansion immediately following the procedure. There were no significant differences on most procedural and stent-related outcomes measures. However, there were several outcomes that were superior for the IVUS group. The mean stent area was greater for IVUS compared with OCT (8.7±2.4 mm vs 7.5±2.5 mm, p<0.05); the percent focal and diffuse stent expansion was greater for the IVUS group (80.3+13.4% vs 64.7%±13.7%, and 98.8%±16.5% vs 84.2%±15.8%; both p<0.05); the frequency of distal edge stenosis was lower for the IVUS group (22.9% vs 2.9%, p<0.005). These results suggest an advantage for IVUS over OCT in achieving optimal stent deployment.

A matched comparison of patients undergoing angiography alone versus angiography plus OCT was published by Prati et al in 2012.(24) A total of 335 patients were treated with OCT as an adjunct to angiography and PCI, these were matched with 335 patients undergoing PCI without adjunct OCT. The primary end point was the 1-year rate of cardiac death or MI. In 34.7% of cases in the OCT group, additional findings on OCT led to changes in management. Patients in the OCT group had a lower rate of death or MI at 1 year, even following multivariate analysis with propensity matching (odds ratio, 0.49; 95% CI, 0.25 to 0.96; p=0.037).

Yamaguchi et al(25) studied 76 patients from 8 medical centers who were undergoing angiography and possible PCI. Both IVUS and OCT were performed in a single target lesion selected for a native coronary artery with a visible plaque that is less than 99% of lumen diameter. Procedural success was 97.3% for OCT compared with 94.5% for IVUS. There were 5 cases in which the smaller OCT catheter could cross a tight stenosis where the IVUS catheter could not. There were no deaths or major complications of the procedures. Minimal lumen diameter was highly correlated between the 2 modalities (r=0.91, p<0.001). Visibility of the lumen border was superior with OCT, with poor visibility reported for 6.1% of OCT images compared with 17.3% by IVUS (p<0.001).

Kawamori et al(26) reported on 18 patients who were undergoing stenting and had both OCT and IVUS performed. The lumen area of the culprit vessel was smaller on OCT images compared with IVUS. OCT was more sensitive in identifying instances of stent malapposition compared with IVUS (30% vs 5%, p=0.04). OCT also picked up a greater number of cases with stent edge dissection (10% vs 0%) and with stent thrombosis (15% vs 5%). These results were interpreted as demonstrating the higher resolution and greater detail obtained with OCT compared with IVUS.

Bezerra et al(27) compared IVUS with both frequency-domain (FD) and time-domain (TD) OCT in both stented and unstented vessels. The authors included 100 matched FD-OCT and IVUS evaluations in 56 nonstented and 44 stented vessels and 127 matched TD-OCT and IVUS evaluations in stented vessels, all in 187 patients who were undergoing PCIs in several trials. The results from their evaluations in stented vessels follow. The authors included comparisons between 44 matched FD-OCT and IVUS
evaluations and 127 matched TD-OCT and IVUS evaluations in stented vessels.(27) In the immediate post-PCI stent evaluations, tissue protrusion and malapposition areas were significantly larger by FD-OCT compared with IVUS (for tissue protrusion, OCT-IVUS difference 0.16 mm², p<0.001; for malapposition areas, OCT-IVUS difference 0.24 mm², p=0.017). Acute malapposition rates were 96.2% with FD-OCT compared with 42.3% with IVUS (Κ=0.241, p<0.001). However, measurements of mean area were larger for IVUS compared with FD-OCT (OCT-IVUS difference, -0.50 mm², p=0.002). For follow-up of stented vessels, compared with IVUS, FD-OCT detected smaller minimal stent lumen areas (3.39 mm² vs 4.38 mm², p<0.001) and a greater neointimal hyperplasia area (1.66 mm2 vs 1.03 mm², p<0.001). Similar findings were seen when TD-OCT was compared with IVUS. These results corroborate other studies’ findings that FD-OCT may be associated with greater detail resolution than IVUS in assessing coronary artery stents. The direction of the difference in immediate post-PCI stent area measurements between FD-OCT and IVUS measurements were counter to the authors’ expectations; on reevaluation of imaging; they determined that patients with post-PCI imaging had more calcification than those who had follow up imaging, and hypothesized that the calcification may have affected detection of the stent-liminal interface on immediate postprocedure IVUS images.

Sohn et al compared detection rates for tissue prolapse after drug eluting stent implantation between OCT and IVUS among 38 patients undergoing stent placement for coronary artery disease.(28) Tissue prolapse was detected in 38 of 40 lesions (95%) on OCT, compared with 18 of 40 lesions (45%) on IVUS. Thirty patients were followed clinically for 2 years postprocedure, during which time 1 case of sudden cardiac death occurred, but no cases of MI, target vessel revascularization, or stent thrombosis. The clinical significance of the OCT detection rate is unclear given that the presence of tissue prolapse was not correlated with major cardiac adverse events during follow-up. In a study with similar findings regarding cardiac adverse events, Sugiyama et al compared tissue prolapse measurements on OCT with stent morphologic characteristics among 178 native coronary lesions in patients undergoing PCI with stent placement.29 Although higher degrees of tissue prolapse on OCT were associated with the presence of thin-cap fibroatheroma, there was no association between the presence of tissue prolapse and clinical events during 9 months of follow-up.

Ann et al compared detection rates for edge dissection after drug eluting stent implantation between angiography, IVUS, and OCT among 58 patients who underwent balloon-expandable stent placement.(30) Stent edge dissection was detected in 24/100 stent edges (24%) on OCT imaging, compared with 3/100 (3%) of stent edges on angiography and 4/100 (4%) stent edges on IVUS. Over 1 year of follow-up, 1 patient with an edge dissection showed an angiographic in-stent restenosis; no cases of death, MI, target lesion revascularization, or stent thrombosis occurred.

Evaluation of Treatment Pathways Using OCT-Assisted PCI

A small body of literature has addressed whether a treatment pathway guided by OCT measurements is feasible or leads to improvements in outcomes. One potential role for OCT-guided therapy is in the use of repeat OCT measurements in the acute setting for guiding treatment decisions for patients with ACS who have undergone revascularization, particularly those with large thrombus burden who have undergone thrombus aspiration. OCT may be useful in these patients in determining the need for stent placement post-thrombus aspiration, based on the size and appearance of any residual clot. Controlled trials of OCT-assisted PCI versus a standard approach are needed to determine whether OCT guided PCI improves outcomes.

Two uncontrolled studies of OCT-guided PCI were identified. Souteyrand et al conducted a prospective observational cohort study to evaluate outcomes for invasive treatment decisions guided by OCT in patients with ACS with a large thrombus burden.(31) Based on results of OCT, 63 (62.4%) patients underwent stenting, while the remainder were managed medically. Over 12 months of follow-up, no sudden deaths or MIs occurred.

Cervinka et al reported results of a pilot study to assess whether OCT guidance could guide intervention during primary PCI with the goal of avoiding balloon angioplasty and stenting.(32)The study included 100 patients with STEMI and who underwent thrombus aspiration followed by OCT. Based on OCT imaging, 20 patients were treated with thrombus aspiration only. At follow-up angiography 1 week post-procedure, all 20 treated with thrombus aspiration only had a “normal vessel” without significant stenosis and evidence of nonobstructive thin-cap fibroatheroma. No major adverse clinical events occurred at 30-day, 9-month, or 12-month follow-up in either group.

These uncontrolled studies demonstrate the feasibility of an OCT-guided approach to stent placement following thrombus aspiration. However, this evidence does not permit conclusions about whether OCTguided treatment decisions improve outcomes compared with standard approaches, given the lack of a control group. Further high-quality comparative trials are needed.

Section Summary

The evidence on use of OCT as an adjunct to PCI consists of 1 small RCT and several nonrandomized studies that compare the results of OCT with IVUS as an adjunct to PCI to evaluate stent placement, along with several nonrandomized studies that assess the feasibility of an OCT-guided treatment strategy of deferred stenting. Because of the lack of a true criterion standard, it is not possible to determine the accuracy of OCT for detecting abnormalities of stent placement with certainty. The available studies report that OCT picks up more abnormalities than does IVUS, including abnormalities such as stent malapposition that lead to changes in management. The single RCT comparing OCT with IVUS did not report any advantage of OCT over IVUS, and in fact, IVUS was superior to OCT on a number of outcome measures. Overall, the evidence is limited and not sufficient to determine the degree of improvement with OCT or the clinical significance of this improvement. As a result, it is not possible to determine whether OCT improves health outcomes when used as an adjunct to PCI.

Follow-Up Evaluations Poststent Placement

A large number of studies use OCT as a research tool, primarily for studies of coronary stenting. OCT is used to assess the degree of neoendothelial coverage of the stent within the first year of placement. Stent coverage is considered an important intermediate outcome, as it has been shown to be predictive of clinical outcomes for patients undergoing stenting. Other studies have used OCT as a tool in evaluating edge dissections postcoronary stenting.33 These types of studies do not provide any relevant information on the clinical utility of OCT and will therefore not be discussed further in this policy.

A smaller number of studies evaluate the clinical utility of OCT for follow-up evaluation poststenting. Capodanno et al(34) compared OCT with IVUS for stent evaluation in 20 patients who had stent implantation 6 months before. The parameters that were compared included stent length, vessel luminal area, stent area, and the percentage of stent coverage with neoendothelial cells. The measurement of stent length was similar between IVUS and OCT (16.3±3.0 mm vs 16.2±3.8 mm, p=0.82). However, the other measured parameters differed between groups. Vessel luminal area was significantly lower by OCT compared with IVUS (3.83±1.60 mm² vs 4.05±1.44 mm², p=0.82), while stent area was significantly higher with OCT (6.61±1.39 mm² vs 6.17±1.07 mm², p<0.001). The percentage of tissue coverage was also higher with OCT (43.4%±16.1% vs 35.5%±16.4%), suggesting that IVUS underestimates stent coverage compared with OCT.

Inoue et al(35) used OCT to evaluate 25 patients who had previously undergone PCI with drug-eluting stents. OCT was performed at a mean of 236±39 days post-PCI. OCT identified neointimal coverage of the stent in 98.4% of cases. In 0.52%, there was evidence of stent malapposition and a lack of neointimal coverage. Full neointimal coverage was evident in 37% of stents. In 7.2% of patients, there was evidence of a low-intensity area surrounding the struts, which is thought to be indicative of abnormal neointimal maturation. There were no intrastent thrombi identified and no major complications of the procedure.

Section Summary

The use of OCT as a follow-up to stenting can determine the extent of neoendothelial covering within the first year of stenting. Neoendothelial coverage is predictive of future stent-related events and has been used as an intermediate outcome in stenting trials. However, the clinical relevance of measuring stent neoendothelialization has not been demonstrated. While this might provide prognostic information, it is not clear how management would be changed or health outcomes improved. As it can for native vessel lesions, OCT may be able to identify stenosis within stents. However, the evidence is currently lacking to link its use to identify stent stenosis to clinical outcomes.

Other Uses

Other uses of OCT for coronary artery disease have been evaluated. In one small case series, Harris et al evaluated the feasibility of OCT for the evaluation of coronary artery abnormalities in pediatric Kawasaki disease (n=5) and heart transplants (n=12).(36) The evidence is insufficient to determine the efficacy of OCT for these uses.


The safety of optical coherence tomography (OCT was evaluated in a large multicenter case series of 468 patients.(37) These patients underwent OCT for the indications of: evaluation of plaque (40%), adjunct to PCI (28.2%), and follow-up of stenting (31.8%). The most common adverse effect of the procedure was transient chest pain and electrocardiogram changes that occurred in 48% of patients. Major complications were rare, with a total of 9 major complications occurring in 468 patients (1.9%). Major complications included 5 cases of ventricular fibrillation associated with balloon occlusion, 3 cases of air embolism, and 1 case of vessel dissection. There was no periprocedural (MI or other major cardiac adverse events that occurred as a result of the procedure.

In a smaller single-center case series, Lehtinen et al38 evaluated the safety of OCT in 230 OCT evaluations in 210 patients. PCI was performed in 44.3% of examinations. OCT was successful in 87.8% of examinations. Periprocedural complications were rare; chest pain was the most commonly seen, occurring in 10.9% of OCT examinations. One patient died of heart failure after PCI for acute MI.

Ongoing and Unpublished Clinical Trials

A search of in January 2014 identified the several ongoing randomized trials relevant to the use of OCT in coronary artery assessment:

  • Does Optical Coherence Tomography Optimise Results of Stenting (NCT01743274): This is a randomized, open-label trial to compare OCT-optimized stenting with usual care among patients undergoing PCI for ACS. The primary outcome measure is the functional result of the PCI procedure as assessed by fractional flow reserve (FFR). The target enrollment is 230. The estimated study completion date is listed as September 2015. The study’s protocol has been published.(39)
  • FFR or OCT Guidance to Revascularize Intermediate Coronary Stenosis Using Angioplasty (FORZA) (NCT01824030): This is a randomized, open-label trial to compare FFR-guided PCI with OCT-guided PCI in the management of patients with angiographic intermediate coronary stenosis. The primary outcome measure is the occurrence of angina at 13 months postprocedure. Enrollment is planned for 400 subjects; the estimated study completion date is April 2016.
  • Randomized Controlled Study of the Traditional Percutaneous Coronary Intervention and Intervention Using Optical Coherence Tomography of Incomplete Stent Adhesion and Extent of the Formation of Neointima by Resolute Zotarolimus-eluting Stent Insertion (NCT01869842): This is a randomized, open-label trial to compare OCT-guided PCI with usual care (standard PCI) for patients undergoing PCI with stent placement with Resolute zotarolimus-eluting stent insertion for stable angina requiring revascularization or unstable angina. Enrollment is planned for 115 subjects; the estimated study completion date is December 2016.
  • Optimal dRug Eluting steNts Implantation Guided By Intravascular Ultrasound and Optical coheRence tomoGraphy ORENBURG (NCT01917201): This is a randomized, open-label trial to compare PCI guided by OCT and IVUS with usual care (unguided PCI) in patients undergoing PCI with drug-eluting stent placement. Enrollment is planned for 1000 subjects; the estimated study completion date was December 2014, with follow-up through December 2016. 
  • The Comparative Study of OCT, Gemstone CT and 320-detector Row Spiral CT for Evaluating Restenosis of Coronary Artery Stent (NCT02219594): This is a randomized, open-label trial to compare the accuracy for several imaging modalities, including OCT, in the detection of in-stent restenosis in patients undergoing routine retesting 9 to 12 months after coronary stent implantation. Enrollment is planned for 150 subjects; the estimated study completion date is December 2016.
  • The Does Optical Coherence Tomography Optimize Revascularization (DOCTOR) Recross Study (DOCTOR Recross) (NCT02234804): This is a randomized, open-label trial to compare OCT-guided wire recrossing with angiography-guided wire recrossing for patients undergoing PCI with stent placement for stable or unstable angina. The study’s primary outcome is the crosssectional stent strut malapposition in the main vessel bifurcation segment facing the side-branch ostium. Enrollment is planned for 60 subjects; the planned study completion date was December 2014.
  • DETErmination of the Duration of the Dual Antiplatelet Therapy by the Degree of the Coverage of The Struts on Optical Coherence Tomography From the Randomized Comparison Between Everolimus-eluting Stents Versus Biolimus A9-eluting Stents; DETECT-OCT Trial (NCT01752894): This is a randomized, open-label trial to compare OCT-guided PCI with angiography-guided PCI with placement of 1 or 2 types of coronary stents. Enrollment is planned for 1100 subjects; the planned study completion date is November 2016, with follow-up through November 2017.
  • Dissecting the Role of Distal Embolization of Athero-thrombotic Material in Primary PCI: the ThrombOticBurden and mIcrovAscularobStruction (TOBIAS) Study (NCT01914055): This is a randomized, single-blinded trial to compare OCT-guided thrombus aspiration with angiography-guided thrombus aspiration for patients undergoing PCI for ST-elevation MI. Enrollment is planned for 20 subjects; the estimated study completion date is July 2015.

Clinical Input Received From Physician Specialty Societies and Academic Medical Centers

While the various physician specialty societies and academic medical centers may collaborate with and make recommendations during this process through the provision of appropriate reviewers, input received does not represent an endorsement or position statement by the physician specialty societies or academic medical centers, unless otherwise noted.

In response to requests, input was received from 3 academic medical centers while this policy was under review in 2011-2012. All reviewers agreed that OCT should be considered investigational for each of the indications queried. Reviewers mainly cited the lack of sufficient published evidence as the reason for considering OCT investigational.

Summary of Evidence

Optical coherence tomography (OCT) has some advantages over intravascular ultrasound (IVUS) for imaging coronary arteries. It has a higher resolution and provides greater detail for accessible structures compared with IVUS. Case series have demonstrated that OCT can be performed with a high success rate and few complications. Head-to-head comparisons of OCT and IVUS report that OCT picks up additional abnormalities that are not detected by IVUS, implying that OCT is a more sensitive test
compared with IVUS.

As an adjunct to percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI), OCT may improve on the ability of IVUS to pick up clinically relevant abnormalities, and this may lead to changes in management. A single small randomized controlled trial did not report any advantage of OCT over IVUS for achieving optimal stent placement. Several noncomparative studies have been conducted to address whether an OCT-guided treatment strategy involving deferred stenting is feasible. However, no comparative studies have been conducted to demonstrate improved clinical outcomes with such a strategy. Overall, the current evidence is limited and includes relatively small numbers of patients who have been evaluated by OCT. As a result, it is not possible to determine the degree of improvement with OCT, or the clinical significance of this
improvement. Therefore, the use of OCT as an adjunct to PCI is considered investigational.

For the indications of risk stratification of coronary plaques and follow-up of stenting, OCT may also be more accurate than IVUS for imaging of superficial structures. However, the clinical utility of IVUS has not been demonstrated for these indications, because test results do not lead to changes in management that improve outcomes. Therefore, clinical utility has not been demonstrated for OCT for the same reasons. As a result, OCT is considered investigational for risk stratification of coronary plaques and for follow-up poststent implantation.

Practice Guidelines and Position Statements

In 2014, the Society of Cardiovascular Angiography and Interventions published an expert consensus statement on the use of FFR, IVUS, and OCT, which made the following statements regarding the benefit of OCT(40):

  • Probably Beneficial: Determination of optimal stent deployment (sizing, apposition, lack of edge dissection), with improved resolution compared with IVUS.
  • Possibly Beneficial: OCT can be useful for the assessment of plaque morphology.
  • No Proven Value/Should be Discouraged: OCT should not be performed to determine stenosis functional significance.

A consensus report on standardization and validation of techniques and reporting for OCT was published in 2012 by the International Working Group for Intravascular Optical Coherence Tomography Standardization and Validation.(41) This document provided guidance on the following areas that are important to the use of OCT in both research and clinical care:

  • Equipment needed
  • Image acquisition protocols
  • Image display techniques
  • Reporting standards
    • Definition of terms
    • Qualitative results
    • Quantitative measurements

U.S. Preventive Services Task Force Recommendations
Not applicable.

Medicare National Coverage
There is no national coverage determination (NCD). In the absence of an NCD, coverage decisions are left to the discretion of local Medicare carriers.



  1. Prati F, Regar E, Mintz GS, et al. Expert review document on methodology, terminology, and clinical applications of optical coherence tomography: physical principles, methodology of image acquisition, and clinical application for assessment of coronary arteries and atherosclerosis. Eur Heart J. Feb 2010;31(4):401-415. PMID 19892716
  2. Lindsay AC, Viceconte N, Di Mario C. Optical coherence tomography: has its time come? Heart. Sep 2011;97(17):1361-1362. PMID 21730261
  3. Low AF, Tearney GJ, Bouma BE, et al. Technology Insight: optical coherence tomography--current status and future development. Nat Clin Pract Cardiovasc Med. Mar 2006;3(3):154-162; quiz 172. PMID 16505861
  4. Gonzalo N, Tearney GJ, Serruys PW, et al. Second-generation optical coherence tomography in clinical practice. High-speed data acquisition is highly reproducible in patients undergoing percutaneous coronary intervention. Rev Esp Cardiol. Aug 2010;63(8):893-903. PMID 20738934
  5. Fedele S, Biondi-Zoccai G, Kwiatkowski P, et al. Reproducibility of coronary optical coherence tomography for lumen and length measurements in humans (The CLI-VAR [Centro per la Lotta contro l'Infarto-VARiability] study). The American journal of cardiology. Oct 15 2012;110(8):1106-1112. PMID 22748353
  6. Jamil Z, Tearney G, Bruining N, et al. Interstudy reproducibility of the second generation, Fourier domain optical coherence tomography in patients with coronary artery disease and comparison with intravascular ultrasound: a study applying automated contour detection. Int J Cardiovasc Imaging. Jan 2013;29(1):39-51. PMID 22639296 
  7. Liu Y, Shimamura K, Kubo T, et al. Comparison of longitudinal geometric measurement in human coronary arteries between frequency-domain optical coherence tomography and intravascular ultrasound. Int J Cardiovasc Imaging. Feb 2014;30(2):271-277. PMID 24272334
  8. Brugaletta S, Garcia-Garcia HM, Gomez-Lara J, et al. Reproducibility of qualitative assessment of stent struts coverage by optical coherence tomography. Int J Cardiovasc Imaging. Jan 2013;29(1):5-11. PMID 22415543
  9. Jang IK, Bouma BE, Kang DH, et al. Visualization of coronary atherosclerotic plaques in patients using optical coherence tomography: comparison with intravascular ultrasound. J Am Coll Cardiol. Feb 20 2002;39(4):604-609. PMID 11849858
  10. Kubo T, Nakamura N, Matsuo Y, et al. Virtual histology intravascular ultrasound compared with optical coherence tomography for identification of thin-cap fibroatheroma. Int Heart J. 2011;52(3):175-179. PMID 21646741
  11. Miyamoto Y, Okura H, Kume T, et al. Plaque characteristics of thin-cap fibroatheroma evaluated by OCT and IVUS. JACC Cardiovasc Imaging. Jun 2011;4(6):638-646. PMID 21679899
  12. Uemura S, Ishigami KI, Soeda T, et al. Thin-cap fibroatheroma and microchannel findings in optical coherence tomography correlate with subsequent progression of coronary atheromatous plaques. Eur Heart J. Aug 10 2011. PMID 21831910
  13. Yonetsu T, Kakuta T, Lee T, et al. In vivo critical fibrous cap thickness for rupture-prone coronary plaques assessed by optical coherence tomography. Eur Heart J. May 2011;32(10):1251-1259. PMID 21273202
  14. Guo J, Chen YD, Tian F, et al. Thrombosis and morphology of plaque rupture using optical coherence tomography. Chin Med J (Engl). Mar 2013;126(6):1092-1095. PMID 23506584
  15. Jia H, Abtahian F, Aguirre AD, et al. In vivo diagnosis of plaque erosion and calcified nodule in patients with acute coronary syndrome by intravascular optical coherence tomography. J Am Coll Cardiol. Nov 5 2013;62(19):1748-1758. PMID 23810884
  16. Gamou T, Sakata K, Matsubara T, et al. Impact of thin-cap fibroatheroma on predicting deteriorated coronary flow during interventional procedures in acute as well as stable coronary syndromes: insights from optical coherence tomography analysis. Heart Vessels. Jul 19 2014. PMID 25037112
  17. Galon MZ, Wang Z, Bezerra HG, et al. Differences determined by optical coherence tomography volumetric analysis in non-culprit lesion morphology and inflammation in ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction and stable angina pectoris patients. Catheter Cardiovasc Interv. Sep 1 2014. PMID 25178981
  18. Wykrzykowska JJ, Diletti R, Gutierrez-Chico JL, et al. Plaque sealing and passivation with a mechanical selfexpanding low outward force nitinol vShield device for the treatment of IVUS and OCT-derived thin cap fibroatheromas (TCFAs) in native coronary arteries: report of the pilot study vShield Evaluated at Cardiac hospital in Rotterdam for Investigation and Treatment of TCFA (SECRITT). EuroIntervention. Dec 20 2012;8(8):945-954. PMID 22669133
  19. Fitzgerald PJ, Oshima A, Hayase M, et al. Final results of the Can Routine Ultrasound Influence Stent Expansion (CRUISE) study. Circulation. Aug 1 2000;102(5):523-530. PMID 10920064
  20. Jakabcin J, Spacek R, Bystron M, et al. Long-term health outcome and mortality evaluation after invasive coronary treatment using drug eluting stents with or without the IVUS guidance. Randomized control trial. HOME DES IVUS. Catheter Cardiovasc Interv. Mar 1 2010;75(4):578-583. PMID 19902491
  21. Roy P, Steinberg DH, Sushinsky SJ, et al. The potential clinical utility of intravascular ultrasound guidance in patients undergoing percutaneous coronary intervention with drug-eluting stents. Eur Heart J. Aug 2008;29(15):1851-1857. PMID 18550555
  22. Smith SC, Jr., Dove JT, Jacobs AK, et al. ACC/AHA guidelines for percutaneous coronary intervention (revision of the 1993 PTCA guidelines)-executive summary: a report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association task force on practice guidelines (Committee to revise the 1993 guidelines for percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty) endorsed by the Society for Cardiac Angiography and Interventions. Circulation. Jun 19 2001;103(24):3019-3041. PMID 11413094
  23. Habara M, Nasu K, Terashima M, et al. Impact of frequency-domain optical coherence tomography guidance for optimal coronary stent implantation in comparison with intravascular ultrasound guidance. Circ Cardiovasc Interv. Apr 2012;5(2):193-201. PMID 22456026
  24. Prati F, Di Vito L, Biondi-Zoccai G, et al. Angiography alone versus angiography plus optical coherence tomography to guide decision-making during percutaneous coronary intervention: the Centro per la Lotta contro l'Infarto-Optimisation of Percutaneous Coronary Intervention (CLI-OPCI) study. EuroIntervention. Nov 22 2012;8(7):823-829. PMID 23034247
  25. Yamaguchi T, Terashima M, Akasaka T, et al. Safety and feasibility of an intravascular optical coherence tomography image wire system in the clinical setting. Am J Cardiol. Mar 1 2008;101(5):562-567. PMID 18307999 
  26. Kawamori H, Shite J, Shinke T, et al. The ability of optical coherence tomography to monitor percutaneous coronary intervention: detailed comparison with intravascular ultrasound. J Invasive Cardiol. Nov 2010;22(11):541-545. PMID 21041851
  27. Bezerra HG, Attizzani GF, Sirbu V, et al. Optical coherence tomography versus intravascular ultrasound to evaluate coronary artery disease and percutaneous coronary intervention. JACC Cardiovasc Interv. Mar 2013;6(3):228-236. PMID 23517833
  28. Sohn J, Hur SH, Kim IC, et al. A comparison of tissue prolapse with optical coherence tomography and intravascular ultrasound after drug-eluting stent implantation. Int J Cardiovasc Imaging. Oct 2 2014. PMID 25273918
  29. Sugiyama T, Kimura S, Akiyama D, et al. Quantitative assessment of tissue prolapse on optical coherence tomography and its relation to underlying plaque morphologies and clinical outcome in patients with elective stent implantation. Int J Cardiol. Sep 2014;176(1):182-190. PMID 25042663
  30. Ann SH, Lim KH, De Jin C, et al. Multi-modality imaging for stent edge assessment. Heart Vessels. Jan 31 2014. PMID 24481539
  31. Souteyrand G, Amabile N, Combaret N, et al. Invasive management without stents in selected acute coronary syndrome patients with a large thrombus burden: a prospective study of optical coherence tomography guided treatment decisions. EuroIntervention. Jul 19 2014. PMID 25033106
  32. Cervinka P, Spacek R, Bystron M, et al. Optical coherence tomography-guided primary percutaneous coronary intervention in ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction patients: a pilot study. Can J Cardiol. Apr 2014;30(4):420-427. PMID 24680171
  33. Radu MD, Raber L, Heo J, et al. Natural history of optical coherence tomography-detected non-flow-limiting edge dissections following drug-eluting stent implantation. EuroIntervention. Jan 22 2014;9(9):1085-1094. PMID 24064426
  34. Capodanno D, Prati F, Pawlowsky T, et al. Comparison of optical coherence tomography and intravascular ultrasound for the assessment of in-stent tissue coverage after stent implantation. EuroIntervention. Nov 2009;5(5):538-543. PMID 20142173
  35. Inoue T, Shite J, Yoon J, et al. Optical coherence evaluation of everolimus-eluting stents 8 months after implantation. Heart. Sep 2011;97(17):1379-1384. PMID 21051456
  36. Harris KC, Manouzi A, Fung AY, et al. Feasibility of optical coherence tomography in children with Kawasaki disease and pediatric heart transplant recipients. Circ Cardiovasc Imaging. Jul 2014;7(4):671-678. PMID 24874056
  37. Barlis P, Gonzalo N, Di Mario C, et al. A multicentre evaluation of the safety of intracoronary optical coherence tomography. EuroIntervention. May 2009;5(1):90-95. PMID 19577988
  38. Lehtinen T, Nammas W, Airaksinen JK, et al. Feasibility and safety of frequency-domain optical coherence tomography for coronary artery evaluation: a single-center study. Int J Cardiovasc Imaging. Jun 2013;29(5):997-1005. PMID 23417516
  39. Meneveau N, Ecarnot F, Souteyrand G, et al. Does optical coherence tomography optimize results of stenting? Rationale and study design. Am Heart J. Aug 2014;168(2):175-181 e171-172. PMID 25066556
  40. Lotfi A, Jeremias A, Fearon WF, et al. Expert consensus statement on the use of fractional flow reserve, intravascular ultrasound, and optical coherence tomography: a consensus statement of the Society of Cardiovascular Angiography and Interventions. Catheter Cardiovasc Interv. Mar 1 2014;83(4):509-518. PMID 24227282
  41. Tearney GJ, Regar E, Akasaka T, et al. Consensus standards for acquisition, measurement, and reporting of intravascular optical coherence tomography studies: a report from the International Working Group for Intravascular Optical Coherence Tomography Standardization and Validation. J Am Coll Cardiol. Mar 20 2012;59(12):1058-1072. PMID 22421299




CPT    See Policy Guidelines
ICD-9 Procedure  38.24 Intravascular imaging of coronary vessel(s) by optical coherence tomography (OCT) 
ICD-9 Diagnosis    Investigational for all relevant diagnosis codes
  410.00 – 414.9 Ischemic heart disease code range
ICD-10-CM (effective 10/1/15)    Investigational for all relevant diagnoses
   I20.0-I25.9 Ischemic heart disease code range
ICD-10-PCS (effective 10/1/15) B221Z2Z, B223Z2Z Imaging, heart, computerized tomography, intravascular optical coherence, codes for coronary arteries and coronary artery bypass grafts

Intravascular optical coherence tomography

Policy History

Date Action Reason
02/09/12 Add to Medicine section; Cardiology sub-section Policy created with literature search through August 2011, and with clinical input. Considered investigational for all indications.
2/14/13 Replace policy Policy updated with literature review, references added. No change to policy statement
2/13/14 Replace policy Policy updated with literature review through January 2, 2014. References 6, 7, 13, 14, 24, and 28 added. No change to policy statement.
2/12/15 Replace policy Policy updated with literature review through January 5, 2015. References 7, 16, 28-33, 36, and 40 added. Policy statement unchanged.