Battery-Powered Mobile Medical Cart Fire Risk Leads To FDA Warning
Federal health regulators are warning hospitals nationwide that some battery-powered mobile medical carts could catch fire, placing hospitals staff and patients at risk.
In a letter to health care professionals issued on December 27, the FDA highlighted a potential safety risk associated with battery-powered mobile medical carts, such as crash carts, carts to dispense medication, anesthesia carts and ultrasound machines. The agency warns that the carts have been linked to reports of overheating, smoking, fires and even explosions; in some cases requiring hospital evacuations.
The carts are used widely throughout the medical community in many different settings from doctor’s offices, to hospitals, surgery and outpatient facilities.They often have high capacity lithium or lead acid batteries that can power medical devices and workstations for many hours. They are frequently used because of their convenience and versatility in the healthcare field.
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Lithium battery fires are often quite difficult to extinguish. In several reports, firefighters had such difficulty extinguishing the fires that they had to bury the batteries to put the fire out.
The FDA recommends healthcare facilities take certain steps to prevent any adverse events from mobile medical cart battery malfunction.
- Inspect all batteries for signs of damage, including bulging, swelling or cracks.
- Notify manufacturers of damaged batteries.
- Inspect battery chargers and carts containing chargers for overheating components.
- Vacuum the mobile medical carts to remove dust and lint around battery chargers and carts containing chargers.
- Do not use batteries that do not charge properly.
- Do not install chargers or charging carts in confined spaces.
- Keep flammable and explosive objects away from battery chargers and charging carts.
- Request preventative maintenance documentation from cart manufacturers.
If a fire occurs, report it immediately according to hospital protocol, do not touch the battery, unplug the charger or power off the cart if safe to do so, and remove the cart from patient and visitor areas.
If a mobile medical cart or battery malfunctions or catches fire, also report problems to the FDA via the MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting Program.
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