(Adds new forecast, sales details, analyst comment; updates shares)
By Bill Berkrot
April 18 (Reuters) - Intuitive Surgical Inc on Tuesday increased its 2017 forecast for growth in procedures using its da Vinci surgical robots after reporting higher-than-expected first-quarter revenue and profit, and its shares rose nearly 4 percent.
Da Vinci procedures grew almost 18 percent worldwide, with a 28-percent jump reported outside the United States, driven by prostatectomies and strong growth in U.S. hernia procedures.
Intuitive said it now expected full-year procedure growth of 12-14 percent, up from its prior view of 9-12 percent.
The company said average revenue per procedure for the quarter was $1,840.
"Procedure growth of about 18 percent was one of the strongest we have seen so far," Evercore ISI analyst Vijay Kumar said in a note.
The company said it was unsure if growth in a wide range of procedures in the United States was driven by patients seeking care ahead of any healthcare reform under which they could lose insurance coverage.
Intuitive, which has virtually no competition for its surgical robots, sold 133 da Vinci systems in the first quarter, up from 110 in the year-ago period. The systems cost about $1.5 million each.
Instrument and accessory revenue rose 18 percent to $381 million for the quarter.
"We feel our Q1 results were exceptional," Chief Executive Gary Guthart said on a conference call.
The company said price per da Vinci placement was likely to trend lower going forward as it began to offer lower priced and refurbished older systems to cost sensitive markets.
Intuitive also said Asian sales could be constrained until China approved the purchase of more da Vinci systems and Japan expanded reimbursement for additional procedures.
Excluding items, Intuitive had adjusted earnings of $5.09 per share, beating analysts' average estimate by 12 cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Net profit rose to $180 million, or $4.67 per share, from $136 million, or $3.54 per share, a year ago.
Revenue for the quarter rose 13 percent to $674 million, topping Wall Street's estimate of $666.5 million.
Intuitive said it deferred $23 million in first-quarter revenue under a new program in which some customers were offered the opportunity to trade products purchased in the first quarter of this year for products expected to be launched in the future.
Intuitive Surgical shares rose to $787 in extended trading from a Nasdaq close at $759.34. (Reporting by Bill Berkrot; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Andrew Hay)