PURPOSE. To make the first measurements of intraretinal oxygen distribution and consumption after laser photocoagulation of the retina and to compare the efficiency of micropulsed (MP) and continuous wave (CW) laser delivery in achieving an oxygen benefit in the treated area.METHODS. Oxygen-sensitive microelectrodes were used to measure oxygen tension as a function of retinal depth before and after laser treatment in anesthetized, mechanically ventilated, Dutch Belted rabbits (n = 11). Laser lesions were created by using a range of power levels from an 810-nm diode laser coupled with an operating microscope delivery system. NIP duty cycles of 5%, 10%, and 15% were compared with CW delivery in each eye.RESULTS. Sufficient power levels of both the CW and NIP laser reduced outer retinal oxygen consumption and increased oxygen level within the retina. At these power levels, which correlated with funduscopically visible lesions, there was histologically visible damage to the RPE and photoreceptors. Retinal damage was energy dependent but short-duty-cycle NIP delivery was more selective in terms of retinal cell damage, with a wider safety range in comparison with CW delivery.CONCLUSIONS. The relationship between laser power level and mode of delivery and the resultant changes in oxygen metabolism and oxygen level in the retina was determined. Only partial destruction of RPE and photoreceptors is necessary, to produce a measurable oxygen benefit in the treated area of retina.