The potential for using plasmon-resonant gold nanorods as targeted contrast agents for in vivo coherent optical imaging is investigated. Separation of the relative strengths of light scattering and absorption of plasmon-resonant nanorods are measured with a double-integrating sphere system at 774 and 1304nm. The maximum likelihood ratio is then used to test the statistical significance of optical changes observed after application of contrast agents to tissue phantoms. Gold plasmon-resonant nanorods with a longitudinal resonance near 800nm are imaged within varying concentrations of intralipid using a 101dB sensitivity, 800nm optical coherence tomography (OCT) system. We estimate the minimum OCT detectible concentration of these nanorods (ca. 15 by 45nm) within 1.1% intralipid to be 25microg/mL of gold.© (2005) COPYRIGHT SPIE--The International Society for Optical Engineering. Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.