The potential of intravascular photoacoustic (IVPA) imaging to detect atherosclerosis was previously demonstrated using a 532 nm nanosecond pulsed laser and an intravascular ultrasound (IVUS) imaging catheter. However, to differentiate vulnerable plaques, the composition of plaques needs to be imaged. Therefore, we introduce a multi-wavelength photoacoustic imaging method to distinguish various types of plaques. Multi-spectral IVPA imaging of ex vivo samples of normal and atherosclerotic rabbit aorta was performed at several wavelengths within 680-900 nm range. The spectral variation of photoacoustic response was extracted and a spectroscopic analysis was performed. The results of our preliminary study suggest that the spectroscopic intravascular photoacoustic imaging technique can be used to differentiate fibrous and lipid components of the atherosclerotic plaques. © 2008 Optical Society of America.