Purpose: To demonstrate the value of the laser-scanning optical-resolution (LSOR)-photoacoustic (PA) microscopy (PAM) system and the conventional multimodal imaging techniques in the evaluation of laser-induced retinal injury and choroidal neovascularization (CNV) in rats. Methods: Different degrees of retinal injury were induced using laser photocoagulation. We compared the LSOR-PAM system with conventional imaging techniques in evaluating retinal injury with or without CNV. Six additional rats, treated with an anti-VEGF antibody or immunoglobulin G immediately after photocoagulation, were imaged 7 and 14 days after injection, and CNV lesion areas were compared. Results: In the retinal injury model, fundus autofluorescence showed well-defined hyperreflection, while the lesion displayed abundant PA signals demonstrating nonuniform melanin distribution in retinal pigment epithelium (RPE). RPE was detected with higher contrast in the PAM B-scan image than optical coherence tomography (OCT). Additionally, the CNV lesion was present with multiple PA signal intensities which distinctly characterized the location and area of CNV as found in fundus fluorescein angiography. Furthermore, the decreased PA signals extending from the CNV lesion were similar to those of the vascular bud in ex vivo imaging, which was invisible in other in vivo images. When treated with anti-VEGF agents, statistically significant differences can be demonstrated by PAM similar to other modalities. Conclusions: LSOR-PAM can detect the melanin distribution of RPE in laser-induced retinal injury and CNV in rats. PAM imaging provides a potential new tool to evaluate the vitality and functionality of RPE in vivo as well as to monitor the development and treatment of CNV.

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