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Both intravascular ultrasound and optical coherence tomography have been purported to accurately detect and characterize coronary atherosclerotic plaque composition. The aim of our study was to directly compare the reproducibility and diagnostic accuracy of optical coherence tomography and intravascular ultrasound for the detection and characterization of coronary plaque composition ex vivo as compared with histology.Intravascular ultrasound (20 MHz) and optical coherence tomography imaging was performed in eight heart specimens using motorized pullback. Standard histology using hematoxylin–eosin and van Gieson staining was performed on 4 μm thick slices. Each slice was divided into quadrants and accurately matched cross-sections were analyzed for the presence of fibrous, lipid-rich, and calcified coronary plaque using standard definitions for both intravascular ultrasound and optical coherence tomography and correlated with histology. After exclusion of 145/468 quadrants, we analyzed the remaining 323 quadrants with excellent image quality in each procedure. Optical coherence tomography demonstrated a sensitivity and specificity of 91/88% for normal wall, 64/88% for fibrous plaque, 77/94% for lipid-rich plaque, and 67/97% for calcified plaque as compared with histology. Intravascular ultrasound demonstrated a sensitivity and specificity of 55/79% for normal wall, 63/59% for fibrous plaque, 10/96% for lipid-rich plaque, and 76/98% for calcified plaque. Both intravascular ultrasound and optical coherence tomography demonstrated excellent intraobserver and interobserver agreement (optical coherence tomography: κ=0.90, κ=0.82; intravascular ultrasound: κ=0.87, κ=0.86).Optical coherence tomography is superior to intravascular ultrasound for the detection and characterization of coronary atherosclerotic plaque composition, specifically for the differentiation of noncalcified, lipid-rich, or fibrous plaque.