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Inside the Volk Booth at AAO 2011

Inside the Volk Booth at AAO 2011

By Melissa Short, Contributing Editor

At the recently concluded American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) annual meeting in Orlando, Volk Optical introduced a new ophthalmic imaging device and a surgical viewing aide for ophthalmologists — in addition to showcasing their core lens technologies. Ophthalmologists had an opportunity to test drive the new retinal camera, the Pictor, while also learning about Volk's introduction into the OR with the Merlin. In case you couldn't make it to the Volk booth this year, here's the latest on the newly released Pictor, Merlin and their renowned ophthalmic lenses.

Volk: Past and Present

Volk's story begins with a single ophthalmologist who had a passion for improving optics. David Volk, MD, known for developing the double aspheric lens nearly 50 years ago, eventually went on to establish Volk Optical/Tech Optics Inc. in 1974. “Since then,” explains Volk President, Pete Mastores, “Volk has grown from one man's passion into a renowned supplier of medical devices to the eyecare industry worldwide.”

Although Volk designs, manufactures and distributes out of Mentor, Ohio, 65% of its business is conducted internationally. Volk's successful international presence led to its receipt of the Presidential “E” Award for Exports in May 2011. The award reflects the company's expansion from an ophthalmologist's innovative hobby into an internationally recognized provider of eyecare equipment.

Mastores credits Volk's growth to a company-wide commitment to providing the highest caliber of optics and eyecare equipment. “At Volk, we strive to provide the best products to eyecare professionals worldwide, so they can provide the best care to patients,” he says. Now, with the Pictor and Merlin, the same Volk quality known from our lenses is available in ophthalmic imaging and surgical viewing.”


At the AAO, the newly released handheld Pictor demonstrated its ease of use for ophthalmologists by enabling the capture of ophthalmic images — both still and video — in any mobile situation. The non-mydriatic camera photographs both the posterior and anterior segments of the eye through two modules. The Retinal Module provides a 45° field of view of the fundus, and can capture images through a pupil as small as 3 mm. The Anterior Module images the corneal surface and areas directly surrounding the eye. It also supports fluorescent imaging with its cobalt blue LEDs.

“The Pictor is ideally suited for patients with disabilities as well as pediatric patients because the patient doesn't have to be positioned,” explains David Friedman, business manager for diagnostic imaging at Volk. Weighing about a pound and operating on a battery, the portable device mobilizes your practice, adding flexibility to your daily routine.”

Switching between exam rooms is simplified with the device. In cases where doctors may practice out of multiple locations, it eliminates the necessity of outfitting each location with a retina camera. “Physicians that do not operate out of a fixed facility have the option of consolidating equipment without compromising capabilities,” says Friedman. In this regard, the Pictor cuts costs by allowing ophthalmologists to purchase one imaging device, instead of equipping multiple offices.

All captured images are saved in JPEG format and can be easily uploaded to a computer via the device's cradle or a USB connection. The fast download enables users to view and assess images on the spot. Having images readily available facilitates patient-doctor rapport and even helps patients become more invested in their ocular health.

“The Pictor allows the patient and doctor to have an immediate discussion,” explains Friedman. “It also allows the doctor to show the patient what he sees.” With a visual centerpiece, you can draw your patients into discussions about their diagnosis and prognosis — something that supports better outcomes in terms of patient care.

“We're pushing forward with a focus on making equipment smaller, easier, and more cost-effective,” concludes Friedman. With the Pictor, Volk has achieved this goal.

Pictor imager with two ophthalmic modules

Merlin system showing lens moving up and out


Volk promoted Merlin at the AAO as well. Merlin is a non-contact surgical viewing system for retinal specialists, which mounts to the bottom of any surgical microscope, providing a crisp, clear view of the surgical field during vitreoretinal surgeries. The device features a simple design and can operate hands free without compromising capabilities. By offering two separate operating platforms, Merlin provides the precise view needed during surgeries. Both the Rotational Assembly (RA) and the Condensing Lens Assembly (CLA) allow for a 360° rotation to place the lens positioning unit and lens in the surgical field. The RA suspends the lens over the eye and moves aside easily when not in use.

The CLA eliminates the adjustment of the scope by a physician when switching between retinal and corneal views. It can be adjusted both manually and automatically. In the automated mode, when the lens is over the eye, all movement is synchronized to the position of the lens.

“This makes the instrument as close to hands free as possible,” explains Volk's business manager for ophthalmic surgery, Matthew Holmes. “You want to be able to keep your hands on the instrument during procedures.” The hands-free system can also operate without a foot switch — freeing up real estate in your practice and simplifying the procedure.

Merlin offers three lens choices: the mid field for higher magnification, the wide angle for a wide field of view, or the wide angle small diameter for a smaller option when space is limited. “Our current users are amazed at the image quality of each of the lenses, and specifically, the wide field of view provided by the wide angle lens,” says Holmes. In addition, all exposed portions of Merlin can be autoclave sterilized. “There are no disposable lenses, so the cost doesn't build up over time from replacing them.”

Although Holmes notes that the image and product quality of the Merlin are unparalleled, he finds a distinct advantage in the device that you won't find elsewhere. “One of the key advantages of using Merlin is the customer service you'll receive from Volk. The same services our customers know with our handheld lenses is now extended to the OR suite.”


While launching the Pictor and entering the OR suite with Merlin are recent accomplishments, Volk highlighted its core business of supplying ophthalmic lenses for examination, laser treatment and surgery. Some of the latest optics featured at the AAO included the High Resolution (HR) Lenses and the Digital Series — both employing cutting-edge technology to deliver the clearest view possible.

Among Volk's HR Lenses are the Wide Field and the Centralis. The design and materials of the Wide Field deliver a higher resolution than before. “Essentially, it provides doctors a better and clearer view with more detail,” says John Strobel, Volk's Vice President of Sales and Marketing. He also states that the enhanced, wide view results in improved diagnostics and laser work. In addition, the HR Centralis offers a 1.08x magnification for views of the retina and posterior pole. This contact lens is optimally suited for diagnostic and laser work.

Within the Digital Series, the Wide Field stands among Volk's most popular lenses. The Digital Wide Field combines features of traditional lenses, works well with small pupils and provides a wide field of view with less reflections. Strobel says the lens allows you to do more with less because of its computer-designed curvature of the glass, which gives improved clarity over the traditional version. Volk also uses specific glass types based on how the lens is used, which helps bend the light better to improve the user's view. In addition, the lens features a coating optimal for visible light and cuts down on glare — something that's essential for non-contact lenses.

The advantages of Volk's lens technology boil down to one basic principle, according to Strobel. “If you can't see it, you can't treat it. Anytime you can see better and with more detail, you're better equipped to provide a comprehensive diagnosis or treatment,” he says. As evidenced by the extensive fielding of their lenses and their international presence — Volk optics has become a cornerstone in many practices.

Nearly 50 years after Dr. Volk's passion for optics led him to experiment with lens design, Volk's objective of providing optimal care through world-class optics and equipment remains the same. According to Mastores, “Volk will continue to pursue new technology and future products to help practitioners provide the best care possible.”