Sudden fibrous cap disruption of 'high-risk' atherosclerotic plaques can trigger the formation of an occlusive thrombus in coronary arteries, causing acute coronary syndromes. High-risk atherosclerotic plaques are characterized by their specific cellular and biological content (in particular, a high density of macrophages), rather than by their impact on the vessel lumen. Early identification of high-risk plaques may be useful for preventing ischemic events. One major hurdle in detecting high-risk atherosclerotic plaques in coronary arteries is the lack of an imaging modality that allows for the identification of atherosclerotic plaque composition with high spatial and temporal resolutions. Here we show that macrophages in atherosclerotic plaques of rabbits can be detected with a clinical X-ray computed tomography (CT) scanner after the intravenous injection of a contrast agent formed of iodinated nanoparticles dispersed with surfactant. This contrast agent may become an important adjunct to the clinical evaluation of coronary arteries with CT.