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What is a Crash Cart?

Mary McMahon
Updated Feb 04, 2024
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A crash cart is a wheeled cabinet or chest of drawers which contains all of the equipment necessary for emergency resuscitation, from latex gloves to a defibrillator. Crash carts are conveniently positioned throughout hospitals and some other medical facilities so that they can be quickly accessed in an emergency. Using the tools on a crash cart requires advanced medical skills and certification in Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS), a medical protocol which dictates which medical interventions should be used in an emergency, and when.

In some parts of the world, a crash cart is called a code cart, in a reference to the slang term “code” to refer to a patient in severe medical distress. Nations which speak British English refer to a crash cart as a crash or code trolley. The lifesaving equipment on a crash cart is vitally important, and for that reason, medical personnel regularly check on supply levels, ensuring that tools will always be available when they are needed. In some hospitals, a separate “code team” is responsible for handling resuscitation and the crash cart.

The drawers of a crash cart are clearly organized and labeled, so that medical personnel can grab what they need in a hurry. The drawers are usually divided into adult and child sections, as tools and medical supplies come in different sizes for larger and smaller bodies. Commonly, drawers are divided into cardiac and respiratory sections, and a separate drawer may be used for the storage of drugs used in resuscitation. Most crash carts also include a panel which snaps shut to keep the drawers from sliding open, and to discourage curious patients.

The series of interventions involved in resuscitation can be chaotic and intimidating for people who are not familiar with them, especially since medical personnel do not have time to explain what they are doing. Despite the appearance of chaos, the team of people who performs a resuscitation is actually highly organized, and each member of the team knows his or her role and steps in quickly to help as needed. A well trained crash team operates like a smooth machine which is also capable of making quick medical judgments which may save a patient's life.

It is generally fairly easy to pick out a crash cart from a room full of medical equipment, since crash carts are usually brightly colored to make them easy to identify. The wheels are often a tip-off, as is the defibrillator on top. If you see a crash cart coming down a hospital corridor, common courtesy dictates that you step aside, just as you would pull over your car for a passing ambulance. In emergency resuscitation, every second counts, and staff do not have time to ask people to move out of the way.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By Marlene Faatau — On Nov 19, 2010

describe the components of a crash cart?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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