Medtronic's (NYSE: MDT) third-fiscal-quarter revenue chart would make a good preschool test for finding the outlier. (Hint: Look for the parentheses.)


Sales (in Millions)

Increase (Decrease) at Constant Currencies

Cardiac rhythm disease management















Surgical technologies






Source: Company press release.

Sure, it's never exciting to see the top segment growing by just 2%, but the slow growth is somewhat expected. Strong competition from Boston Scientific (NYSE: BSX) and St. Jude Medical (NYSE: STJ) is expected to keep prices of pacemakers and defibrillators in check.

The bigger problem I see involves the slight decline in Medtronic's second-largest segment, spinal products. The company is in a rebuilding phase, hoping that the pipeline can regrow its spinal business in the future. Until then, don't expect much help from this backup growth-driver.

Besides the two stalled-out segments at the top, the rest of Medtronic is looking mighty fine. I mean, who's going to complain about a 21% increase in the cardiovascular division? The segment is flying high thanks to Medtronic's Japanese launch of its drug-eluting stent, Endeavor, which helped bring its worldwide share of the stent market to 20%, from 17% a year ago. That's a nice improvement, although keep in mind that there are only four major drug-eluting stent makers -- Medtronic, Boston Scientific, Abbott Labs (NYSE: ABT), and Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) -- so Endeavor still isn't getting its "fair share" of the market at the moment.

With only one more quarter to go in its fiscal year, Medtronic raised the low end of its guidance, but kept the upper end intact. I bet if the company had a stronger spine, it would have upped both.

Maybe next year, Medtronic.

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Fool contributor Brian Orelli, Ph.D., doesn't own shares of any company mentioned in this article. The Fool owns shares of and has written puts on Medtronic. The Fool's disclosure policy had a spine before we tore it out of the book.