We introduce a method for photoacoustic imaging of the carotid artery, tailored toward detection of lipid-rich atherosclerotic lesions. A common human carotid artery was obtained at autopsy, embedded in a neck mimicking phantom and imaged with a multimodality imaging system using interstitial illumination. Light was delivered through a 1.25-mm-diameter optical probe that can be placed in the pharynx, allowing the carotid artery to be illuminated from within the body. Ultrasound imaging and photoacoustic signal detection is achieved by an external 8-MHz linear array coupled to an ultrasound imaging system. Spectroscopic analysis of photoacoustic images obtained in the wavelength range from 1130 to 1250 nm revealed plaque-specific lipid accumulation in the collagen structure of the artery wall. These spectroscopic findings were confirmed by histology. (C) The Authors. Published by SPIE under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.