What Do You Need For A Crash Cart? Role and Components of Medical Crash Carts - American Hospital Supply

What Do You Need For A Crash Cart? Role and Components of Medical Crash Carts

Staff Editor ·

What Do You Need For A Crash Cart? Role and Components of Medical Crash Carts 

In healthcare emergencies, every second counts when it comes to saving lives. Medical emergencies can occur anytime, and being prepared with the right tools and equipment is necessary for any healthcare setting. One such essential piece of equipment is the medical crash cart – a mobile unit with life-saving supplies and medications designed to respond quickly to critical situations.

Primarily found in hospitals and healthcare settings, these carts are vital for providing immediate care during life-threatening emergencies. But what exactly should be included in a crash cart to ensure it's up to the task?

What is a medical crash cart?

A medical crash cart is a specialized mobile unit that provides immediate access to essential life-saving equipment and medications during emergencies. A crash cart, by its very definition, is a rolling set of shelves or drawers equipped with life-saving medicines, devices, and tools necessary to perform advanced cardiac life support (ACLS) and other critical interventions.

As a firefighter wouldn't show up to the location without the fire truck, hoses, and other essential equipment, when healthcare professionals face a medical emergency, they need a well-stocked crash cart – their own version of a fire truck – to respond quickly and effectively. It has essential medical supplies and equipment, including automated external defibrillators (AEDs), defibrillation pads, airway maintenance tools, wound care supplies, and medications. Each item in a crash cart is like a tool in a firefighter's toolbox, carefully selected to serve a specific purpose and help healthcare professionals respond to emergencies efficiently.

Benefits of Medical Crash Carts for Hospitals and Clinics

  • Everything in One Place:

During a cardiac arrest, every second counts. Instead of wasting precious time searching for a defibrillator or medication, a crash cart has everything needed in one place. For example, suppose a patient is experiencing ventricular fibrillation. A defibrillator can quickly be retrieved from the crash cart to shock the heart into a normal rhythm. 

  • Quick Response

Crash carts are designed to be mobile, allowing medical staff to transport them to an emergency location quickly and easily. This mobility is critical, enabling medical staff to administer life-saving treatments immediately. For example, suppose a patient experiences a cardiac arrest in a hospital room. In that case, medical staff can quickly retrieve and wheel a crash cart to the patient's bedside. This mobility ensures that the patient receives the care they need as soon as possible, which can improve their chances of survival and reduce the risk of long-term complications. Crash carts can help improve patient outcomes and ensure medical staff can respond quickly and effectively to emergencies.

  • High-Quality Construction

Crash carts are constructed from durable materials, such as powder-coated metal and stainless steel, to withstand emergency rigours. This durability is essential in hospital settings, where equipment may be subjected to rough handling and frequent use. For example, suppose a crash cart is dropped or bumped during an emergency. In that case, it is designed to withstand the impact and continue functioning correctly.

  • Applications

Crash carts are versatile tools that can be used in a variety of emergency situations. In addition to being used for cardiac and respiratory emergencies, crash carts can also be used for other medical emergencies, such as seizures, allergic reactions, and drug overdoses. For example, if a patient experiences a seizure, medical staff can quickly retrieve anti-seizure medication and a padded tongue depressor from the crash cart to help manage the seizure and prevent injury.

  • Helps Improve Quality of Care

By providing medical staff with quick and easy access to essential equipment and medications, crash carts can help streamline the treatment process and reduce the time patients take to receive critical care. This can lead to better patient outcomes, such as a lowered risk of complications and a faster recovery time. For example, suppose a patient experiences a cardiac arrest. In that case, using a crash cart can help medical staff quickly administer CPR, defibrillation, and medication, improving the patient's chances of survival and reducing the risk of long-term complications.

Types of Crash Carts

Crash carts, also known as code carts or resuscitation carts, come in various types, each equipped with specific supplies and medications tailored to different emergencies.



Basic Crash Cart:


This is the most common type of crash cart, found in various locations throughout a hospital, including emergency departments, patient floors, and intensive care units. It contains essential equipment and medications for emergencies, including cardiac arrest, respiratory distress, and allergic reactions. It may include airway management equipment (bag-valve mask, endotracheal tubes), basic intravenous (IV) equipment, medications, and a defibrillator.


Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) Cart:

This specialized cart is typically found in critical care areas like cardiac intensive care units (CICU) and operating rooms. It contains advanced equipment and medications for cardiac arrest and other cardiac emergencies. It builds upon the basic crash cart, including medications like amiodarone and vasopressin, and advanced cardiac monitoring equipment.


Paediatric Crash Cart:


Designed specifically for children, this cart contains equipment and medications sized and dosed appropriately for paediatric patients. Similar to a basic crash cart but includes smaller-sized airway equipment, paediatric-specific medications, and smaller blood pressure cuffs.


Trauma Crash Cart:


This cart is stocked with supplies and medications in emergency departments and trauma centres to address traumatic injuries. It provides immediate access to resources for treating patients experiencing bleeding, fractures, and other trauma-related complications. It can include wound care supplies, bandages, splints, tourniquets, and medications for managing pain and blood loss.


Anesthesia Cart:


This cart contains medications and supplies for anesthesia administration and peri-operative care in operating rooms and procedural areas. It can include induction and maintenance medications, airway management equipment, and monitoring devices.


What is in a medical crash cart?

The contents of a hospital crash cart are carefully selected to ensure that healthcare professionals have the necessary equipment and medications to respond quickly to emergencies. Here are some examples of the items that may be found in a crash cart:

Airway Maintenance Tools:

Airway management is a critical component of emergency care, and crash carts are equipped with devices to help maintain a patient's airway. Examples of airway management tools that may be found in a crash cart include:

  • Endotracheal tubes: These are flexible plastic tubes inserted into the patient's trachea to maintain an open airway and provide oxygenation.
  • Laryngoscopes: These are devices used to visualize the patient's vocal cords and facilitate the insertion of an endotracheal tube.
  • Bag-valve masks: These handheld devices provide positive pressure ventilation to patients not breathing or experiencing respiratory distress.

Cardiovascular Equipment

Cardiac equipment is used to diagnose, monitor, and treat cardiac conditions. Examples of cardiac management equipment that may be found in a crash cart include:

Automated External Defibrillator (AED):

An AED, or Automated External Defibrillator, is a small, portable device that can help save the life of someone experiencing a sudden cardiac arrest. It's designed to be easy to use, even for people without medical training. When attached to the patient's chest with adhesive defibrillator pads, the AED analyzes the heart's electrical activity. Suppose the AED detects a specific abnormal heart rhythm called ventricular fibrillation. In that case, it will instruct the user to step back and automatically deliver an electrical shock through the pads. This shock aims to restart the heart and restore a normal rhythm.

ECG Monitors

An ECG (electrocardiogram) monitor records the electrical activity of the heart. It's used to diagnose and monitor heart conditions, such as arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats), coronary artery disease, and heart attacks. An ECG monitor typically consists of electrodes placed on the patient's skin and a machine that records and displays the electrical signals from the heart.  


Electrodes are small, sticky patches on the skin that conduct electrical signals from the heart to an ECG monitor. They're an essential part of an ECG monitor, allowing it to detect and record the heart's electrical activity.

Medications and Medication Accessories:

The medications found in a crash cart may vary based on each healthcare facility's specific protocols and guidelines. Examples of drugs and medication equipment that may be seen in a crash cart include:

  • Epinephrine: This is a medication used to treat anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction that can cause cardiac arrest.
  • Atropine: This is a medication used to treat bradycardia, a slow heart rate that can lead to cardiac arrest.
  • Syringes: These are used to administer medications and fluids to patients.
  • IV catheters: These are used to establish intravenous access for administering medications and fluids.

Resuscitation Tools:

Resuscitation tools are devices used to assist in the process of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and the resuscitation of patients who are in cardiac arrest or experiencing respiratory distress. Examples of resuscitation tools include:

  • CPR masks: These devices are used to provide ventilation to patients who are not breathing or experiencing respiratory distress.
  • Chest compression devices: These are devices used to provide effective chest compressions during CPR.
  • Oxygen tanks: These are used to provide supplemental oxygen to patients who are not breathing adequately.

Wound Care Supplies:

While wound care supplies are not typically considered a primary component of a crash cart, some basic wound care supplies may be included to help manage bleeding or other wounds that may occur during an emergency. Common examples include:

  • Sterile gauze pads: These are used to apply pressure to a wound to help stop bleeding.
  • Adhesive bandages: These are used to cover and protect minor wounds.
  • Wound Care Tape: This is used to secure bandages or other wound dressings in place.
  • Sterile saline solution: This is used to clean and rinse wounds.
  • Antiseptic wipes or solutions: These are used to clean the skin around a wound to help prevent infection.
  • Trauma shears: These are scissors that are specifically designed for cutting clothing or bandages.
  • Gloves: These are used to protect the caregiver and the patient from the spread of infection.

Blood Pressure Monitors and Accessories

While some crash carts may have dedicated monitors that display vital signs, including heart rate, oxygen saturation, and blood pressure, standalone blood pressure monitors are also commonly included for added flexibility and redundancy. This ensures that even if the main monitor encounters any issues, blood pressure checks can still be performed quickly and reliably using the standalone device. Here are some of the items that may be included in the blood pressure monitors and accessories section of a crash cart:


  • Automatic blood pressure monitor: This device automatically inflates and deflates the Non-Invasive Blood Pressure (NIBP) cuffs and calculates the patient's blood pressure. It's often used in emergencies because it's quick and easy to operate.
  • Manual blood pressure monitor: This device requires the user to manually inflate and deflate the NIBP cuff and listen for the patient's blood pressure using a stethoscope. It's often used when more precise blood pressure measurements are needed.
  • NIBP Cuffs: These are inflatable cuffs that are placed around the upper arm and connected to a blood pressure monitor. They come in various sizes to fit different patients. 

Again, it's important to note that the specific supplies and equipment found in a crash cart may vary depending on the specific needs of the facility and the population it serves.


In conclusion, a medical crash cart provides immediate access to essential life-saving equipment and medications during emergencies in hospitals and clinics. A basic crash cart, found in most locations, is equipped for a range of emergencies, while specialized carts like the ACLS cart and pediatric cart cater to specific patient populations or situations. Crash carts are essential for improving patient outcomes because they give medical personnel the resources to act quickly in cardiac arrest, respiratory distress, and other life-threatening situations.

AHS: Find Comprehensive Medical Equipment and Accessories for Crash Carts

American Hospital Supply provides a variety of top-quality medical equipment and supplies for crash cart preparedness, including AEDs, defibrillation pads, airway maintenance tools, wound care supplies, and blood pressure cuffs.  At AHS, our top priority is to provide high-quality products and friendly customer service to meet your personal or organizational medical supply needs.

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