It seems as though I write this a half-dozen times or so every quarter.

It's apparently just inevitable that some small high-growth companies get pushed up to levels where there's absolutely no room for the perception of a slip-up. And then you get a quarterly report where this number or that number looks a bit soft or the guidance isn't what investors had it cracked up to be. And then the stock swoons and people lose money.

Today's passenger on the expensive stock rollercoaster is LCA-Vision (NASDAQ:LCAV) -- an operator of laser vision correction clinics that has had a torrid run from early 2003 up until . well, today.

So let's examine the damage, shall we? Revenue was up 43% and basically in line with the average estimate. No real trouble there -- sure, same-store sales revenue was up "only" 34%, the lowest figure for the year, but that's not unusual for the company. Moving along, operating income was up 53% and earnings per share rose 30%, actually beating the estimate a bit.

The trouble would seem to be with the guidance. Taking the midpoint of management's guidance for 2006 and adding back stock-based compensation (assuming that current published estimates are excluding stock-comp expense), LCA-Vision comes up just a bit short. Mind you, we're still talking about very strong growth on both the top and bottom line, but when your stock is priced for perfection, this is the price that's paid when you appear to disappoint.

Much as I like the story here, even today's drop doesn't really make the shares cheap. So although I'd much rather own LCA-Vision than cheaper-looking rivals like NovaMed (NASDAQ:NOVA) or TLC Vision (NASDAQ:TLCV), there are just too many high-quality ideas out there that are trading at more reasonable prices. Maybe instead of buying shares in this laser vision clinic operator, investors might want to look at one of the laser-makers -- Advanced Medical Optics (NYSE:EYE) as it works to turn its business around.

For more of the Foolish eyeball:

Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).