The FDA is warning health care facilities of potential safety risks associated with battery-powered mobile medical carts. The FDA is aware of reports of explosion, fires, smoking, or overheating of equipment that required hospital evacuations associated with the batteries in these carts.
Battery-powered mobile medical carts include crash carts, medication dispensing carts, and carts that carry and power medical devices for point of care, barcode scanners, and patient monitoring. These carts typically have high capacity lithium or lead acid batteries that can power medical devices and workstations (computers) for many hours.
The FDA regulates medical carts that meet the definition of a device under section 201(h) of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. In some cases, the battery-powered cart itself has a therapeutic function (e.g., medication dispensing carts). In other cases, the cart can function as an accessory to medical devices, such as colonoscopes, ultrasound machines, and anesthesia machines.
Battery-powered mobile medical carts are used because of their convenience and utility. FDA has received medical device reports of hospital fires and other health hazards associated with batteries used in mobile medical carts and their chargers. These events, which range from smoke production and overheating to equipment fires and explosion, can occur with lithium, lead acid, and other types of batteries. Such hazards may result in equipment and facility damage, hospital evacuation or patient and staff injury.
In addition, lithium battery fires are very difficult to extinguish. In several reports, firefighters had to bury mobile medical cart batteries to extinguish a fire.
The FDA recommends that health care professionals and health care facilities take the following steps to help reduce the potential for injury to patients, staff and visitors.
If a battery in a mobile medical cart catches fire while charging or in use:
Prompt reporting of adverse events can help the FDA identify and better understand the risks associated with medical devices. If you experience adverse events we encourage you to file a voluntary report through MedWatch, the FDA Safety Information and Adverse Event Reporting program. Please provide the following information, if available:
Health care personnel employed by facilities that are subject to the FDA's user facility reporting requirements should follow the reporting procedures established by their facilities.
The FDA has collected and analyzed data from medical device reports (MDRs), labeling, medical literature, and information from clinicians and manufacturers. The FDA will continue to monitor this situation.