Beating the mean analyst earnings estimate is usually no big deal -- a couple pennies here or there and you're good to go. In fact, some companies have made a science of finessing guidance to ensure that they always manage to be just a bit ahead of the curve.

And then there's ICU Medical (NASDAQ:ICUI), a small-cap medical device company that beat its estimate by 100%. We're not talking about positing $0.02 instead of $0.01 here. We're talking about $0.38 a share versus $0.19.

At the risk of stating the obvious, this quarter worked out better than just about anybody expected, including management. In place of some normal seasonal weakness, sales were strong across the board. Total revenue rose more than 180% over last year, and -- excluding the recently acquired Salt Lake City facility -- "legacy business" revenue was up 81%. There really weren't any worrisome laggards, and sales of its needle-free connection device CLAVE, as well as custom products, nearly doubled.

The revenue performance was rock-solid, but I'm just as impressed with the margins. Gross margins rose on a year-over-year basis, and the legacy business did even better. Although the Salt Lake City facility is a drag on margins, the company improved the gross here from 15% in the second quarter to 23% in this quarter. Now, nobody should expect that sort of sequential pace to persist, but it does suggest that management really has an opportunity to boost profits here through better operational execution.

The one note of caution I'll sound is this: The company has a history of volatile quarter-to-quarter earnings comparisons. Part of the problem is that it is heavily reliant upon Hospira (NYSE:HSP) for sales, and that demand isn't always predictable or consistent. And then, of course, you also have competition from the likes of Baxter (NYSE:BAX) and Becton Dickinson (NYSE:BDX) for some products.

I realize that what this company does, connectors, valves, infusion sets and the like, isn't nearly as exciting as what other med-tech companies like Cyberonics (NASDAQ:CYBX) or Intuitive Surgical (NASDAQ:ISRG) offer. Still, it's a profitable and recurrent business when it's run right, and the company is actively working to add new products to the roster.

Today's big move in the stock puts it pretty close to where it was when I last reviewed it and thought the stock a bit expensive. Seeing what management achieved on the margin line this quarter is certainly a positive factor. And if the company can manage to maintain consistent mid-teens earnings growth, money could still be made from these levels, though it doesn't leave much of a safety margin.

More medical missives:

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