Good but not great: That's pretty much been how 2019 has gone so far for Abbott Labs (NYSE:ABT) when it comes to stock performance. Shares of the medical-device maker are up more than 11% year to date, but those gains lag the S&P 500 index.

Abbott has turned in solid quarterly results so far this year, though. It even boosted its full-year earnings outlook after delivering strong earnings growth in the second quarter.

The company announced third-quarter results before the market opened on Wednesday. Here are three things you'll want to know. 

Businessman pointing to images of dollar signs

Image source: Getty Images.

1. Revenue growth was consistent

Revenue was $8.1 billion in the third quarter, a year-over-year increase of 5.5%. It also represented organic growth of 7.6%, excluding discontinued operations and foreign exchange fluctuations. This growth rate was consistent with Abbott's Q2 growth and was in line with Wall Street expectations. 

Unsurprisingly, Abbott's medical devices segment was its strongest-performing unit in Q3. Medical devices revenue came in at nearly $3.1 billion, up 8.9% year over year on a reported basis and 10.6% on an organic basis. This growth was fueled in part by market wins for the HeartMate 3 left ventrical assist device and the MitraClip device for treating mitral regurgitation.

The company's established pharmaceuticals segment also performed well, with revenue rising 7.9% year over year to $1.2 billion. This segment enjoyed solid growth in several emerging markets, especially Brazil, China, and India.

Abbott's diagnostics segment achieved total sales of $1.9 billion in the quarter, reflecting 4.7% year-over-year growth on a reported basis and 6.6% growth on an organic basis. Its Alinity line of lab instruments continued to be a primary growth driver.

The nutrition segment didn't grow quite as much as Abbott's other units, with revenue increasing 2% over the prior-year period to nearly $1.9 billion. Its organic growth rate of 3.8% looked a little better, though. The primary issue for the nutrition business is what the company called "challenging market dynamics in Greater China."

Perhaps the brightest spot in Abbott's Q3 update was the sustained momentum for FreeStyle Libre. Sales for the continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) system totaled $496 million, a strong 63.1% year-over-year jump.

2. Earnings were right on track

The consensus among Wall Street analysts was that Abbott would report adjusted earnings per share of $0.84, and that's exactly what the healthcare giant delivered. This reflected a solid year-over-year increase of 12%.

Abbott announced earnings of $960 million, or $0.53 per share, based on generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP). The company's GAAP EPS soared nearly 66% above the prior-year period, largely due to paying down debt in 2018 Q3 and receiving other income in the recent quarter.

The company increased spending at a slower pace than its revenue growth. That's the textbook approach for boosting earnings.

3. Narrowing guidance

CEO Miles White said: "We're performing exceptionally well across several areas. We're right on track to achieve ongoing EPS and organic sales growth at the upper end of our initial guidance ranges for the year." 

The company narrowed its full-year 2019 earnings guidance. It now expects GAAP EPS in a range from $2.06 to $2.08, after previously projecting it between $2.06 and $2.12. Abbott also now anticipates that its adjusted EPS will be $3.23 to $3.25, versus its previous guidance of $3.21 to $3.27.

For the fourth quarter of 2019, Abbott expects GAAP EPS in a range from $0.59 to $0.61. The company also projects adjusted EPS from $0.94 to $0.96 -- right in line with Wall Street's estimates.

The big questions

Investing in healthcare stocks always has some degree of uncertainty with the potential for regulatory changes. Abbott investors will definitely want to keep their eyes on what happens with the 2020 presidential race since the company's prospects could be affected depending on which candidate wins.

Abbott also awaits a decision by the Food and Drug Administration on clearance of its new version of FreeStyle Libre. An approval would accelerate growth, and could mean the stock's performance will shift from good to great.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.