Optical coherence tomography (OCT) is a catheter-based imaging technology with powerful resolution capable of identifying vulnerable plaques and guiding coronary intervention. However, a significant limitation of intravascular OCT imaging is its attenuation by blood. We propose that the use of an oxygen-carrying blood substitute could potentially optimize OCT image quality. Surgical isolation of the descending thoracic aorta of six rabbits is performed, followed by intravascular OCT imaging of the abdominal aorta. Perfluorodecalin (PFD) is oxygenated using a bubble-through technique with 100% oxygen. OCT imaging is performed and compared using three different flushing modalities: PFD; saline; and blood. OCT imaging of the rabbit abdominal aorta is successful in all of the subjects. In each of the six studied subjects, flushing with PFD consistently provides dramatically better imaging of the vessel wall tissue structures. OCT image quality is highly dependent on the ability of the flushing modality to remove blood from the imaging field. From this proof-of-concept study, we demonstrate that endovascular flushing with an oxygen-carrying blood substitute (PFD) is optically superior to saline flushing for intravascular imaging. © 2009 Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers.