The neovascular variant of age-related macular degeneration is amenable to laser photocoagulation treatment within well-defined guidelines established by clinical trials. However, only a limited number of patients meet eligibility criteria for this form of treatment, principally because of the ill-defined, or occult nature, of the choroidal neovascularization commonly seen. Previous studies have estimated that one half of patients with neovascular age-related macular degeneration have occult neovascularization at initial manifestation of the disease. We examined the initial findings of 67 patients with newly diagnosed unilateral neovascular age-related macular degeneration. Eighty-seven percent of these patients (58 of 67) had disease that did not meet Macular Photocoagulation Study Group guidelines for laser photocoagulation treatment. As so few patients are eligible for laser photocoagulation, further research into new techniques of diagnosis and treatment for this disorder is warranted.