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What's in a Crash Cart and What Is It Used For?

/ By Ian LoperAugust 1, 2022

Healthcare providers can significantly improve emergency case response time by having the right tools and equipment. 

According to the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey conducted by the CDC in 2018, 43.5% of emergency hospital visits are attended to by staff in under 15 minutes. While this is a decent rate, there is a heightened need to improve it.

One way is using an efficient and reliable medical crash cart for emergencies. This easy-to-grab equipment serves as safe storage for critical care and emergency responses.

Crash Carts: Different Types and Purposes

The typical construction of a hospital crash cart is steel or aluminum-made. Such metals do not easily react to chemicals or extremes in temperature or weather. Regardless of the purpose or type, medical cart manufacturers utilize these on the main frame, trays, and handles, ensuring a sturdy and light build.

Emergency Carts

An emergency cart is used to transport and dispense emergency medications and supplies. It is essential for cardiopulmonary resuscitation as it contains advanced cardiac life support (ACLS), first-line drugs, a defibrillator, a bag valve mask, and a suction device.

Pediatric Response Carts

As the name suggests, a pediatric crash cart is used for storing pediatric medicine and supplies. In addition to the standard hospital cart contents, these contain the following:

  • Weighing scale
  • Measuring tools
  • Blood pressure cuffs
  • Warming devices
  • Pulse oximeter
  • Femur splints
  • Needles
  • Pediatric tape
  • Pediatric gauzes

Anesthesia Carts

An anesthesia cart is for holding surgical tools and anesthesia paraphernalia during an operation. It is stocked with emergency medicine, endotracheal tubes, oral and nasopharyngeal airways, IV supplies, a spare self-inflating bag, laryngeal mask airways (LMAs), laryngoscope handles, suction catheters, and blades.

Treatment/Procedure Carts

Procedure or treatment carts are typically used in hospitals, nursing schools, and doctor's clinics. They can be customized to have additional tubs or dividers in the drawers for enhanced organization and easy access to supplies. Specialized waste bins for hazardous waste are a must for this type of medical cart.

Critical Isolation Carts

An isolation cart is used to keep infection control or isolation room supplies. An isolation room is where patients suffering from infectious diseases are situated to avoid contact. Smooth panels, seamless drawers, and work surfaces mitigate the risk for infection transmission and promote ease in cleaning. 

Bedside Carts

Bedside carts are used to treat patients during the recovery process. They can be left in the patient's room because they have locking drawers and wheels to safely store medical supplies.

Checklist: Supplies and Equipment in a Crash Cart

Crash carts combine an equipment center, a dispensing unit, and a rolling cart. It stores and transports the necessary supplies and medication to the treatment scene, enabling staff to use what they need to deliver prompt, quality care.

Since hospital staff relies on them so much, medical carts should always carry complete stocks of supplies and tools. Medical emergency equipment should be readily available whenever a patient may experience an emergency or where treatment is frequently rendered by a health professional.

Medications

Most medical facilities have the following code medications in their medication drawers and code carts:

  • Epinephrine - A vasopressor used to increase cardiac output by increasing heart muscle contractility and heart rate, as well as conductivity through the AV node.
  • Amiodarone - Used to treat ventricular fibrillation (VF) and ventricular tachycardia (VT) during cardiac arrest.
  • Calcium - Stabilizes the myocardium and strengthens the contraction of cardiac tissue.
  • Sodium Bicarbonate - Helps increase serum or blood pH when the patient is experiencing acidosis.
  • Dopamine - a vasodilator that treats insufficient cardiac output and hypotension.
  • Naloxone - An opioid antidote used to treat an overdose.

First Drawer

In the first drawer, you will find heart-related equipment like electrodes and gel for the ECG, a machine that measures the heart's electrical activity. The first tray also contains:

  • Sutures
  • Lumbar puncture kit
  • Suction supplies
  • Spare spinal needles
  • Spinal needle tips

Second Drawer

The second tray or drawer is for intubation equipment or airway supplies. The standard contents include:

  • Endotracheal tubes
  • Syringes to inflate the cuff on the endotracheal tube
  • Oropharyngeal and nasopharyngeal airways
  • Laryngoscope handle and blades
  • Nasal filter lines
  • Magill forceps
  • Tongue depressor
  • Dyna plaster
  • Laryngeal masks
  • Bite block
  • Flashlight
  • Batteries
  • Stylets

Third Drawer

The third tray in a rolling cart is for storing intravenous (IV) supplies like the following:

  • IV start kit
  • Disposable syringes and needles of different sizes
  • 3-way stopcocks
  • Pressure monitoring line
  • IV sets with extensions
  • Vacutainers
  • Catheters
  • Tourniquet tubing
  • Disinfectants
  • Burette set
  • PosiFlush
  • Disposable kidney tray

Fourth Drawer

The fourth cabinet is also known as the medication drawer. It contains high-alert medications regularly inspected for expiration dates:

  • 50% Dextrose 50ml-1
  • Adenosine 3 mg/ml
  • Adrenaline 1mg/ml-1
  • Amiodarone 150 mg vial
  • Aspirin 81 mg tabs
  • Benadryl 50mg
  • Dextrose 50% (25% in pediatric wards)
  • Diazepam 50 mg/10 ml
  • Dobutamine 250mg in 5ml or 20ml-2
  • Dopamine 40 mg/ ml
  • Epinephrine (EpiPen, Epinephrine 1:1,000)
  • Lidocaine 100 mg
  • Lopressor 10 mg
  • Midazolam 50 mg/10 ml vial
  • Naloxone (Narcan 1 mg/ml)

Bottom Drawer

The fifth drawer in a hospital trolley keeps intravenous or IV fluids like the following:

  • 500 ml of D5W and NS
  • 100 ml of NS-2
  • 1,000 ml dextrose 5% in water solution (D5W)
  • 1,000 ml normal saline solution (NS)
  • 1,000 ml lactate solution (Lactate's Ringer or LR)

Additional Drawer

Other crash carts, like pediatric crash carts, are built with an extra or separate drawer that houses other essentials like:

  • Pediatric tape
  • Adult and pediatric gauzes
  • Pulse oximeter
  • Needles
  • Blood pressure cuffs
  • Intraosseous needles or bone marrow needles
  • Medication additive labels
  • Weighing scale
  • Other measuring tools, e.g., tape
  • Warming devices
  • Femur splints
  • IV pole

Crash Cart Maintenance Routine

At least once a month, staff should complete the following restocking crash carts and code cart maintenance routine:

  • Medication expiration dates should be checked on the first of every month.
  • Medicine that has expired should be removed and replaced as soon as possible.
  • Check the expiration date of defibrillation pads on the AED or defibrillator.
  • Check and document the battery charge on the monitor and AED.
  • Follow standard sterile instrument storage arrangements to ensure fast and efficient code responses.
  • All supplies and equipment should be labeled appropriately.

Choose the Right Crash Cart for Your Medical Needs

Emergency carts are an essential tool in hospitals and clinics. They store all supplies and equipment necessary to save lives. Make sure your choice of manufacturer or supplier offers reliable products and services.

For crash cart constructions that add value to your facility, choose DSI Direct. Our designs are engineered based on industry standards with consideration of your specific needs.

Contact us today at (800) 393-6090 to schedule a consultation with one of our storage experts and receive a free no-obligation price quote.

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