A highly sensitive catheter probe is critical to catheter-based intravascular photoacoustic imaging. Here, we present a photoacoustic catheter probe design on the basis of collinear alignment of the incident optical wave and the photoacoustically generated sound wave within a miniature catheter housing for the first time. Such collinear catheter design with an outer diameter of 1.6 mm provided highly efficient overlap between optical and acoustic waves over an imaging depth of >6 mm in D2O medium. Intravascular photoacoustic imaging of lipid-laden atherosclerotic plaque and perivascular fat was demonstrated, where a lab-built 500 Hz optical parametric oscillator outputting nanosecond optical pulses at a wavelength of 1.7 μm was used for overtone excitation of C-H bonds. In addition to intravascular imaging, the presented catheter design will benefit other photoacoustic applications such as needle-based intramuscular imaging.
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