On Wednesday, Boston Scientific (NYSE:BSX) reported third-quarter results that were at the upper end of the company's late-September earnings warning. The shares have had a rough run lately, down nearly 40% over the past year. Buying opportunity? Hard to tell at this point.

Total sales grew 34% to $2 billion, but most of this was due to the Guidant acquisition. In the earnings conference call, management stated that on a pro forma basis, or including Guidant from last year's period, growth was about flat. The U.S. accounted for 63% of sales and grew 37%, while international markets grew 34%, led by Europe, which grew 41% on a constant currency basis. In terms of business segment, the cardiovascular unit, which accounted for 80% of the total, grew 37% as reported, but management stated that results were down about 5% on a pro forma basis.

Reported net income was only $76 million, or $0.05 per diluted share, but management offered an adjusted figure that excluded a number of special charges related to the Guidant purchase, plus $0.10 in amortization and stock-option expenses. The company reported the adjusted figure at 20 cents, or $291 million, versus a loss in last year's third quarter. I would include stock options, since companies going forward are required to include the figure, so a $0.10 quarter from operations is likely an accurate reflection of operating results.

A better gauge of profitability was management's estimation of free cash flow during the earnings conference call. For the quarter, it detailed $480 million in operating cash flow and $80 million in capital expenditures, for a free cash flow total of $400 million.

That number doesn't sound so bad, but it's hard to tell how results will pan out going forward, with Guidant in the mix. Furthermore, there are clearly a number of moving parts as Boston Scientific integrates Guidant and deals with difficulty in certain product segments. You may recall that the defibrillator and pacemaker businesses acquired from Guidant have been fraught with product recalls and safety warnings. In addition, the company's flagship Taxus drug-coated-stent product reported a sales decrease of about 5%.

Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) backed away from the Guidant acquisition after product issues surfaced, and Boston Scientific is currently working through those matters. Both companies continue to dominate the drug-coated-stent market. Demonstrating just how competitive the space is, Medtronic (NYSE:MDT) is also a player, as is Abbott Laboratories (NYSE:ABT).

Boston's management believes that results are beginning to turn for the better, but there currently aren't any financial trends proving that stance. That makes it hard for investors to discern if or when such improvement might happen. Management said it was disappointed with third-quarter results and suggested that the worst is now behind the company, but that trends are still weak. In any case, it expects improved results within the next couple of quarters. Stay tuned.

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Fool contributor Ryan Fuhrmann has no financial interest in any company mentioned. The Fool has an ironclad disclosure policy. Feel free to email him with feedback or to discuss any companies mentioned further.