AIMS/BACKGROUND: Human recombinant tissue plasminogen activator (rt-PA) fibrinolysis of subretinal haemorrhage with concomitant removal has been shown to reverse the natural history of photoreceptor degeneration in experimental subretinal haemorrhages if evacuated within 7 days. The aim of the study was to determine whether fibrinolysis of subretinal haemorrhage without concomitant removal would offer a simpler approach with similar photoreceptor sparing. METHODS: A neodymium YAG laser was used to create experimental subretinal haemorrhages beneath the holangiotic retina of the cat. Tissue plasminogen activator (10 micrograms/ml) was injected into 4 day old subretinal haemorrhages to evaluate its effect on altering the natural history of retinal degeneration. Light and electron microscopy were used to study the histopathological effect. RESULTS: The injection of rt-PA into large 4 day old subretinal haemorrhages without concomitant removal did not alter the natural history of retinal degeneration. In fact, a second focus of retinal degeneration occurred at a gravity dependent inferior site where the subretinal haemorrhages had migrated. CONCLUSIONS: There was no therapeutic benefit from the injection of rt-PA into subretinal haemorrhages without con-comitant removal in this cat model.