Theoretical and experimental aspects of an extrinsic Fabry-Perot optical fiber ultrasound sensor for use in a photoacoustic-guided laser angioplasty system are described. The sensor has been characterized using laser generated thermoelastic waves as a source of wideband ultrasound. A system sensitivity of 25 mV/MPa and an acoustic noise floor of 2 Pa/Hz1/2 are reported using a transparent polymer film as the sensing element. The system demonstrates the required bandwidth for sensing thermoelastic waves containing frequency components up to 20 MHz.© (1995) COPYRIGHT SPIE--The International Society for Optical Engineering. Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.