This study investigates the ability of a flexible fiberoptic-based fluorescence lifetime imaging microscopy (FLIM) technique to resolve biochemical features in plaque fibrotic cap associated with plaque instability and based solely on fluorescence decay characteristics. Autofluorescence of atherosclerotic human aorta (11 autopsy samples) was measured at 48 locations through two filters, F377: 377/50 and F460: 460/60 nm (center wavelength/bandwidth). The fluorescence decay dynamic was described by average lifetime (τ) and four Laguerre coefficients (LECs) retrieved through a Laguerre deconvolution technique. FLIM-derived parameters discriminated between four groups [elastin-rich (ER), elastin and macrophage-rich (E+M), collagen-rich (CR), and lipid-rich (LR)]. For example, τF377 discriminated ER from CR (R = 0.84); τF460 discriminated E+M from CR and ER (R = 0.60 and 0.54, respectively); LEC-1F377 discriminated CR from LR and E+M (R = 0.69 and 0.77, respectively); P < 0.05 for all correlations. Linear discriminant analysis was used to classify this data set with specificity >87% (all cases) and sensitivity as high as 86%. Current results demonstrate for the first time that clinically relevant features (e.g., ratios of lipid versus collagen versus elastin) can be evaluated with a flexible-fiber based FLIM technique without the need for fluorescence intensity information or contrast agents.