Oct 31

Diagnostic Kits

Tips for Selecting Your Diagnostic Kit


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I can’t believe how quickly the first semester of optometry school is flying by! At PCO, we’ve already had our white coat ceremony, purchased our trial lens sets, and survived our first round of midterms. Now it’s time for the first years to make another exciting (and expensive) purchase… diagnostic kits! The diagnostic kits include a transilluminator, retinoscope, and ophthalmoscope. The transilluminator is basically a fancy penlight, the retinoscope is used to objectively determine a patient’s refractive error by viewing light as it reflects back through the patient’s pupil, and the ophthalmoscope is used to look inside the eye to see the optic nerve head and macula.

White Coat

At PCO, we can choose to purchase our diagnostic kits from 3 different companies (listed alphabetically below). There are many advantages to each of their diagnostic kits. Here are just a few things I liked about each company’s product:

1.) Heine

  • Hand assembled in Germany
  • Ophthalmoscope has a metal frame, with a nice, heavy feel…it won’t break easily if dropped!
  • Impossible to mistakenly go from + to – diopters on wheel due to non-continuous wheel design
  • Retinoscope has cylinder correction check mechanism

2.) Keeler

  • Focused on ergonomics – Curved surface of the instrument fits comfortably against your face
  • Comes with colorful grips – Useful for when you’re nervous and have sweaty hands during practicals!
  • Reflex free images provide a clearer view inside the eye
  • Graticule on ophthalmoscope makes it easy to measure cup/disc ratio to check for glaucoma

3.) Welch Allyn

  • Made in USA
  • They’ve been manufacturing medical equipment for almost 100 years – they must know what they’re doing!
  • PanOptic and iExaminer are also available
  • Standard ophthalmoscope used in USA optometric and medical offices
  • Chosen by NBEO to be used in the exam room

Diagnostic Kits

A few questions to ask yourself before you make your decision:

  • What do the upperclassmen at your school recommend?
  • What do the doctors you work with recommend?
  • Which instrument feels best in your hand?
  • Which instrument gives you the best view?
  • Are any special promotions or discounts on future purchases offered?

Selecting your diagnostic kit is an important decision. We’ll likely be using this diagnostic kit for the next 50 years! But don’t stress over your decision too much, almost every student I’ve talked to is happy with the diagnostic kit they chose. You’ll get used to whatever instrument you pick, and if these companies didn’t make a good product, our schools wouldn’t let us purchase them. The more familiar you become with the instruments, the better informed your decision will be. So head into the clinical skills lab with your friends tonight, and try out the different retinoscopes and ophtalmoscopes one more time before you decide!

Best of luck selecting your diagnostic kits, first years! Any tips or advice, please comment below!


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Kristin Schwab

I am currently a first year student at the Pennsylvania College of … Read more

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  • GINO_9

    I personally went with Heine. I love my decision, it just feels like a quality piece of equipment compared to the others, the weight, the way the dials click and move, I’m very happy with it!

    • KS2017

      Heine seems to be a popular choice. Thanks for the advice!

  • LAWRENCE YU

    Haven’t had problems with the Welch Allyn, never thought anything of it, good or bad. Reliable. Have heard good things about the weight of the Heine handle but haven’t experienced it myself.

    • KS2017

      Thanks for the tips, Lawrence!

  • TARA TOMPSON

    What an interesting article! I wonder what kind my optometry office in Calgary uses. I just went in for a check up yesterday I should have look at what they used! thanks for the cool article!

    • COMMANDO303

      Probably Welch Allyn. It’s what the vast majority of practitioners own.

  • COMMANDO303

    I believe much of what you favor with regard to optometry equipment will come down to how you like to conduct your examination. I hardly ever touch the D.O., so it doesn’t matter much to me. On the other hand, I perform retinoscopy on almost every patient, so a good one (sturdy, bright streak) is important (I like Welch Allyn’s).

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