When a great growth story breaks loose, there's no telling how far it will go. I'm reminded of this when looking at a two-year chart of Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendation Intuitive Surgical (NASDAQ:ISRG) and seeing the three notable dips in the stock that would have given me, or any other investor, a chance to buy in at a temporarily discounted price. Fool me once, shame on Intuitive Surgical. Fool me twice (or more), shame on me.

I'm not a big fan of Wall Street hyperbole, but if Intuitive's third quarter doesn't meet the standard for blowout, then I have no idea what that word means. Sales rose 72% and surpassed the high end of revenue estimates by more than 20%. Revenue was helped along by the sale of 30 systems (versus 18 a year ago) and 76% growth in instrument/accessory sales, including more than $1 million in sales of a new monopolar scissors product.

What impresses me most about Intuitive's growth is that the robotic surgical system still isn't being appreciated (or used) for its full potential. While popular in urology, and on target to capture about a 20% share of radical prostatectomy procedures, the device is just starting to see meaningful usage in gynecology. And that's to say nothing of its potential in expanded urology indications, cardiology, and other surgical domains.

Looking at the future of earnings growth, investors should keep a couple things in mind. First, the exceptional performance of Intuitive's shares is quite likely to add more diluted shares to the EPS denominator. Second, the company will be recognizing a deferred tax asset in the fourth quarter and should start paying income tax in the next year. That will make earnings comparisons a bit less obvious for the next year or so.

At this point, it's really tough for me to see how this story slows down any time soon. While the devices are expensive and some surgeons don't like them, the numbers are what they are, and it's clear that many medical centers are recognizing a compelling value in these robotic devices and using them.

So, could this be a new Medtronic (NYSE:MDT) or the next Stryker (NYSE:SYK)? I tend to believe that being tagged with the label of "The next . " is the kiss of death. But robot-assisted surgery has some definitive advantages and broad potential. While the stock has gone absolutely nuts, and I'd suggest that some protective stop orders for a portion of your position might be a worthwhile idea, this is the reward of investing in speculative growth companies. Once that snowball gets rolling down the hill, you never know just how big it will get.

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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).