DaVita Inc. said Wednesday afternoon that fourth-quarter profit rose, thanks in large part to an increase in patients it treated.

DaVita reported net income of $85.7 million (79 cents per share), a 16 percent increase from $74.1 million (70 cents) in the same period a year earlier. The results fell just short of Wall Street's expectations of 81 cents per share, according to Thomson Financial.

Revenue for the El Segundo-based operator of dialysis centers was $1.35 billion, topping analysts' estimates of $1.33 billion.

Total treatments for the fourth quarter rose to 50,045 treatments per day, up from 47,369 a year ago.

However, the company added that it was "entering into a period of unusual earnings uncertainty" and profit will most likely be in the lower end of expected earnings.

DaVita also said that Richard Whitney has rejoined the company and will serve as chief financial officer effective March 1. He had been working with the company on a consulting basis since leaving in 2004, DaVita added.

Shares in DaVita closed up 19 cents to $54.19 in trading Wednesday on the New York Stock Exchange.

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