Pattern-reversal electroretinograms were used as an objective measure of macular integrity in a subset of 42 patients who were randomly assigned at enrollment in the Macular Photocoagulation Study to receive laser photocoagulation or no treatment for a subfoveal neovascular lesion. Pattern-reversal electroretinograms were obtained before randomization, three months and six months after randomization, and at six-month intervals randomization, and at six-month intervals thereafter. Responses were obtained to phase-alternating checkerboards of varying check size. Extrapolation of the best-fit regression line relating log-check size to amplitude was used to determine retinal acuity. At each follow-up period, including three months after laser photocoagulation, treated eyes showed less loss in pattern-reversal electroretinographic acuity than untreated eyes. The decline in pattern-reversal electroretinographic acuity in untreated eyes corresponded to the rapid growth in the area of the subfoveal neovascular lesion. The more gradual decline in treated eyes was consistent with an increase in the area of the treatment scar caused by spreading atrophy.