The purpose of this study was to analyze the ability of optical coherence tomography (OCT) to identify coronary arterial plaque diagnosed by histologic examination. We examined 166 sections from 108 coronary arterial segments of 40 consecutive human cadavers (24 men and 16 women; mean age 74 ± 7 years). The plaque type was classified as fibrous (n = 43), fibrocalcific (n = 82), or lipid-rich (n = 41). The accuracy of OCT and intravascular ultrasound (IVUS) in characterizing the plaque type was studied, with the histologic consensus diagnosis serving as the gold standard. OCT, as well as IVUS, had high sensitivity and specificity for characterizing the different types of atherosclerotic plaque. OCT had a higher sensitivity for characterizing lipid-rich plaques than IVUS (85% vs 59%, p = 0.03). In conclusion, the high resolution of OCT permitted evaluation of lipid-rich plaques more accurately than IVUS.