Intuitive Surgical's Q1 soars, despite da Vinci robot lawsuits

Intuitive Surgical ($ISRG) endured a rough 2013 first quarter dealing with increased safety concerns over its da Vinci surgical robot, culminating with a judge deciding the company must face a patient death lawsuit over a prostatectomy gone horribly wrong. But you wouldn't know by the company's financial results that there were any problems at all.

The California company's first-quarter revenue climbed to $611 million, a 23% jump from $495 million in the 2012 first quarter fueled by continued sales of the company's da Vinci Surgical system. Net income also soared, hitting $189 million, versus $144 million over the same period last year.  Instruments and accessories revenue climbed by double digits as the company's da Vinci robots increasingly were used in general surgery, gynecology and international urology procedures. The number of da Vinci systems sales also grew robustly.

Those sales hikes countered one soft spot: U.S. prostatectomy procedures declined.

That decline comes as the company must deal with 10 lawsuits alleging safety problems with the da Vinci surgical robots. The company was to begin its first trial this week in Washington state, facing charges from the family of the late Fred Taylor alleging that Intuitive's poor training of his doctor led to brain damage, kidney failure, incontinence and death following a  7-hour da Vinci-assisted prostate surgery. Intuitive says it did nothing wrong, and that it is not legally responsible for training doctors.

Meanwhile, groups such as the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists are questioning whether da Vinci makes any difference in surgeries beyond adding cost. And the FDA is gathering data from surgeons to see whether the benefits of the da Vinci devices outweigh the risks of adverse events.

Intuitive continues to stand strong, insisting that da Vinci remains safe and that the number of successful procedures outweighs what it says is the relatively small number of adverse events.

- read the release

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