The medical crash cart is a critical part of the medical industry. The crash cart allows medical professionals to respond quickly to codes and is more than merely a medication cart because it contains everything that might be needed in terms of medication and equipment in a life saving emergency.

What is a medical crash cart?

A medical crash cart is a portable cart used for emergency medical situations. It is stocked with easily accessible equipment and medication suitable for dealing with codes, or life saving procedures, such as resuscitation.

A crash cart is a combination of a medical rolling cart, a dispensing unit, and an equipment center. It can carry the medication and medical supplies to the site and allow staff to retrieve and use what they need quickly to provide life support.

crash carts

What is a medical crash cart used for?

The crash cart is mobile and can be wheeled to the location where it is required. It can also be moved around a room or ward to allow medical staff to use it to take a patient’s blood pressure, check their vital signs, or perform stress testing.

Medical staff can respond to emergencies quickly and efficiently. They can access equipment such as defibrillators, IV fluid, endotracheal tubes, and vital medication within moments, potentially saving someone’s life.

Medical crash carts or code carts are not found everywhere in a hospital and normally have specific locations which allow them access to many areas of the hospital. The most common places to put them are in an operating room, an emergency treatment area, an outpatient surgery center, or a site nearby any area which might require immediate medication or life saving devices.

How is the required emergency cart organized?

The organization may vary depending on factors such as the facility in which the cart is used or the treatment area. However, there is a general standard for medical crash cart organization that often follows a similar pattern across different facilities.

On top of the cart

The defibrillator on the top of the crash cart should be ready to use as soon as needed and checked daily to ensure it is in good working order. The defibrillation pads should be multipurpose to allow it to be used in various situations. There should also be separate infant pads and paddles ready to use.

Oxygen supplies and valves should be easily accessible. These supplies and valves should include a few choices of face mask size, including an infant facemask.

The oxygen tank should be securely fastened to the side of the cart. The pressure or oxygen level in the tank should be checked regularly, dated, and initialed by the staff member who checked it.

A CPR backboard and a resuscitation tape for pediatric care should also be stored outside the cart.


Medications are generally kept in the top drawer, or the top two drawers, of the crash cart. If you have pediatric and adult drugs, you might store pediatric medications in the second drawer.

Medications can be set out in rows within the drawer, with each row containing medications for different purposes. For example, medications used when treating cardiac arrest are typically kept closer to the front for faster access.


Intubation can be one of the tasks a crash cart is used for. The materials for this might be kept lower down in one of the crash cart drawers, depending on how the rest of the drawers are organized.

Because of how the equipment looks, pediatric and adult intubation equipment should be separated.

Intravenous lines

The materials needed to start an IV line should have their own drawer in the crash cart. This drawer should include various sizes of needles, syringes, and other variable equipment so any patient can be treated. You may choose to have the IV solutions kept in the drawer as well for easy access.

Procedure kits

The equipment needed for medical procedures is generally kept in the bottom drawer, often the fifth drawer, of the crash cart set. This equipment is designed to be used for the emergency procedures that are often required during a code.

The equipment should be prepared in kits, with each kit specified for a particular procedure. Sterile gloves and sutures should also be included in this drawer to be retrieved at the same time as the procedure kit.

Types of crash carts

Although crash carts are often similar, some have specific purposes. These purposes vary based on the necessary equipment or medication as well as the organization of the cart.

For example, a crash cart in an age-specific facility might need particular medications or equipment. For example, pediatric medicine and geriatric medicine often have vastly different needs, and the cart’s contents can reflect this. So for example, you need to stock your pediatric crash carts with children’s medicine and equipment.

The part of the facility in which the cart is being used may also mean a different type of crash cart. An urgent care crash cart can differ from a crash cart kept in an operating room.

Inventory and maintenance

It is extremely important to ensure that an up-to-date inventory is maintained for your crash cart. Knowing which medications and equipment are on the cart maintains safety and prevents wasting time.

Another issue is that medication and equipment might be subject to expiration dates. Keep a schedule of when to check for expiration dates and note when they are on a separate document in order to refill the cart when necessary.

Make sure to have a specific schedule for inventories on each crash cart at your medical facility, with a log of who performed the checks. There should also be a record of what was replaced and when. Keeping a record can avoid potential medication mistakes, as well as dangerous situations such as empty oxygen tanks being left unfilled.

Should you customize your crash cart?

When customizing your crash medical cart, make sure you discuss the design with a professional who has experience in this area. The cart should be easy to understand and to use, allowing it to assist with any code for which it is required.

Sometimes, customizing your crash cart means meeting the special medical needs of your facility. The regulations required for your medical practice may vary depending on which state you operate in. Make sure to check whether there are any additional rules to follow in the way you set up or maintain your crash cart.

customize your crash cart

How can technology help improve a crash cart?

Although the crash cart will be mobilized in the event of a code, it is still a part of the patient’s wider care. Having computer technology available on the cart can allow those using it to access electronic records.

Easy access to patient files, or additional information on the procedure or treatment at hand, can significantly speed up the activities of the medical staff. This access can also help prevent errors.

Nurses and other medical professionals may be able to input patient data using the crash cart, which can help to improve accuracy and patient communication. By choosing a mobile computer option, you can retain the all-important speed and maneuverability of the crash cart, while still enjoying the benefits of a medical computer cart.

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