Intuitive Surgical slides on cautious outlook

April 18, 2013 by Brad Perriello

Wall Street punished Intuitive Surgical today despite a 32% earnings spike after the robotic surgery company said it expects hysterectomy and other procedure volumes to be soft this year.

Intuitive Surgical

Investors on Wall Street rewarded Intuitive Surgical's (NSDQ:ISRG) robust 1st-quarter results – which left The Street's expectations in the dust – by paring nearly 3% from its share price today and another 3.3% in after-hours trading.

The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based medical device company, which makes the da Vinci robotic surgery device, posted profit growth of 32% on a 23.5% top-line gain.

Intuitive reported profits of $188.9 million, or $4.56 per share, on sales of $611.4 million during the 3 months ended March 31.

But slower-than-expected growth in benign hysterectomy procedures, and a refined outlook pointing to the lower end of procedure volume growth, combined to spook investors.

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ISRG shares closed down 2.8% at 493.37 each and slide another 3.3% in after-hours action, to $477 even.

Calvin Darling, Intuitive's senior finance director, guided analysts during a conference call to the lower end of the company's 20%-23% procedure volume prediction. But revenues are expected to be in the higher end of Intuitive's 16%-19% growth prediction, Darling said.

President & CEO Gary Guthart led off the earnings call with a rebuttal of recent criticism (and lawsuits) regarding the cost-effectiveness and safety of da Vinci robotic surgeries.

"As you know, we are in the amidst of a concerted effort by critics of robotic surgery to challenge the benefit it brings to patients, the value it brings to the medical community and the quality of our organization," Guthart said. "While taking these allegations very seriously, we remain deeply committed to developing and providing products that are in the surgeons' hands, ease the burden of surgery for patients who can benefit from them. We take pride in the benefits provided by our systems, demonstrated a numerous large scale population studies comparing to Vinci surgery to open surgery for several different procedures.

We are confident that those who invest their time in a serious review of the clinical literature on da Vinci will find ample evidence, and the benefit it brings to patients, surgeons, hospitals, and the medical community at large."