An infrared, heat-sensing catheter particularly useful for identifying potentially fatal arterial plaques in patients with disease of the coronary or other arteries and its use are detailed. In one embodiment, an infrared fiberoptic system (with or without ultrasound) is employed at the tip of the catheter to locate inflamed, heat-producing, atherosclerotic plaque, which is at greater risk for rupture, fissure, or ulceration, and consequent thrombosis and occlusion of the artery. In another embodiment, a catheter with an infrared detector (with or without ultrasound) employed at its tip will likewise locate inflamed heat-producing atherosclerotic plaque. The devices and methods of the invention may be used to detect abscesses, infection, and cancerous regions by the heat such regions differentially display over the ambient temperature of immediately adjacent tissues. The methods and devices of the invention may also be used to detect regions of cooler than ambient tissue in a vessel or organ which indicate cell death, thrombosis, cell death, hemorrhage, calcium or cholesterol accumulations, or foreign materials.