We demonstrate two short-coherence-length, rare-earth-doped fiber optical sources for performing optical coherence tomography (OCT) in human tissue. The first source is a stretched-pulse, mode-locked Er-doped fiber laser with a center wavelength of 1.55 μm, a power of 100 mW, and a bandwidth of 80 nm. The second is a Tm-doped silica fiber fluorescent source emitting up to 7 mW of power at 1.81 μm with a bandwidth of 80 nm. The OCT imaging depth of penetration in in vitro human aorta is compared using these sources and conventional 1.3-μm sources. © 1998 Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers.