Sudden cardiac death or unheralded acute coronary syndromes are common initial manifestations of coronary atherosclerosis and most such events occur at sites of non-flow limiting coronary atherosclerosis. Autopsy data suggests that plaque composition is a key determinant of the propensity of atherosclerotic lesions to provoke clinical events. Most of these events are related to plaque rupture and subsequent thrombotic occlusion at the site of non-flow limiting atherosclerotic lesions in epicardial coronary arteries. Detection of these non-obstructive, lipid rich, high-risk plaques may have an important impact on the prevention of acute myocardial infarction and sudden death. Currently, there are several intravascular tools capable of locally evaluating determinants of plaque vulnerability such as the size of the lipid core, thickness of the fibrous cap, inflammation within the cap and positive remodeling. These new modalities have the potential to provide insights into the pathophysiology of the natural history of coronary plaque by means of prospective studies.