Intuitive Surges Into the Future

Surgical robots -- two words that have translated into big returns for investors in Intuitive Surgical (Nasdaq: ISRG  ) , a maker of high-tech robotics for the medical industry. The company had a blowout second quarter and recently saw its stock hit an all-time high. This is a company that I have recommended in my newsletter, Motley Fool Rule Breakers, and I am an investor as well. I was fortunate to have had a chance to talk recently with Aleks Cukic, vice president of business development for Intuitive Surgical.

David Gardner: Aleks, for the benefit of those who have never heard of Intuitive Surgical -- and I'm going to guess that's most people because you are a small company at present -- give us an overview of what Intuitive Surgical does.

Aleks Cukic: I certainly will. Intuitive Surgical is a manufacturer of the da Vinci surgical platform, which is a surgical robotic system used to perform minimally invasive surgical procedures. [Whereas] traditional surgery is done through large incisions, [the da Vinci platform is] able to perform those procedures through small punctures in the areas of urologic surgery, cardiac surgery, general surgery, and gynecology.

David: That's the minimally invasive part, which is certainly a macro trend in medicine today; rather than cut into your patients, medical technology is increasingly able to make small incisions. I guess my natural follow-up is, what does the robot do? Where is the advantage in robotics here?

Aleks: Think of the da Vinci system as a tool that the surgeon controls. It isn't a simple push of a button and the robot performs the surgery. It is a tool that the surgeon actually controls that improves and enhances the visualization. It provides a three-dimensional view inside of the patient as opposed to a two-dimensional view, which traditional minimally invasive surgery provides. It has seven degrees of motion and freedom; in other words, it takes your hands, wrists, and elbows and reduces them to an 8-millimeter form factor, and it has tremor filtration, motion scaling, and other technical advantages. So the surgeon controls his or her natural movements, which are translated through the robotic system.

David: And what is the most common form of surgery today where the da Vinci robot is used?

Aleks: Today, it is the removal of a cancerous prostate or a radical prostatectomy. Traditionally, that procedure was done through a large incision and the patient was in the hospital for two to three days. There were also several reported complications and side effects with that procedure. So the da Vinci prostatectomy is leading the way in that disease management and the patients are actually leaving the hospital in 24 hours or in some cases less, with what is being reported as improved surgical outcomes.

David: It is certainly an exciting technology, and that's why I was attracted to it as an investor. It's also a very volatile stock, isn't it?

The rest of David Gardner's discussion with Aleks Cukis, including Aleks' thoughts about his company's stock, its competitors, and its future prospects, can be found on theMotley Fool Rule Breakerssite. A free trial grants you access to the interview, along with all of David Gardner's current and past stock picks, the issue archive, dedicated discussion boards, and more! Current subscribers, click here for access to the entire interview.

Fool co-founder David Gardner heads up theMotley Fool Rule Breakersnewsletter service. David owns shares of Intuitive Surgical. The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors and has a strict disclosure policy.


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