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Intravascular ultrasound (IVUS) imaging systems using circumferential arrays mounted on cardiac catheter tips fire beams orthogonal to the principal axis of the catheter. The system produces high resolution cross-sectional images but must be guided by conventional angioscopy. A real-time forward-viewing array, integrated into the same catheter, could greatly reduce radiation exposure by decreasing angiographic guidance. Unfortunately, the mounting requirement of a catheter guide wire prohibits a full-disk imaging aperture. Given only an annulus of array elements, prior theoretical investigations have only considered a circular ring of point transceivers and focusing strategies using all elements in the highly dense array, both impractical assumptions. In this paper, we consider a practical array geometry and signal processing architecture for a forward-viewing IVUS system. Our specific design uses a total of 210 transceiver firings with synthetic reconstruction for a given 3-D image frame. Simulation results demonstrate this design can achieve side-lobes under -40 dB for on-axis situations and under -30 dB for steering to the edge of a 60/spl deg/ cone.