Coronary angiography is unable to define the status of the atheroma, and only measures the luminal dimensions of the blood vessel, without providing information about plaque content. Up to 70% of heart attacks are caused by minimally obstructive vulnerable plaques, which are too small to be detected adequately by angiography. We have developed an intravascular imaging detector to identify vulnerable coronary artery plaques. The detector works by sensing beta or conversion electron radiotracer emissions from plaque-binding radiotracers. The device overcomes the technical constraints of size, sensitivity and conformance to the intravascular environment. The detector at the distal end of the catheter uses six 7mm long by 0.5mm diameter scintillation fibers coupled to 1.5m long plastic fibers. The fibers are offset from each other longitudinally by 6mm and arranged spirally around a guide wire in the catheter. At the proximal end of the catheter the optical fibers are coupled to an interface box with a snap on connector. The interface box contains a position sensitive photomultiplier tube (PSPMT) to decode the individual fibers. The whole detector assembly fits into an 8-French (2.7 mm in diameter) catheter. The PSPMT image is further decoded with software to give a linear image, the total instantaneous count rate and an audio output whose tone corresponds to the count rate. The device was tested with F-18 and Tl-204 sources. Spectrometric response, spatial resolution, sensitivity and beta to background ratio were measured. System resolution is 6 mm and the sensitivity is >500 cps / micrometers Ci when the source is 1 mm from the detector. The beta to background ratio was 11.2 for F-18 measured on a single fiber. The current device will lead to a system allowing imaging of labeled vulnerable plaque in coronary arteries. This type of signature is expected to enable targeted and cost effective therapies to prevent acute coronary artery diseases such as: unstable angina, acute myocardial infarction, and sudden cardiac death.© (2001) COPYRIGHT SPIE--The International Society for Optical Engineering. Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.