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Crash Carts
  1. Crash cart: What must be on a crash cart for medical emergency physicians? Answer

  2. Who Needs a Crash Cart? Answer

  3. How Is a Crash Cart Arranged? Answer

  4. What’s In a Crash Cart and How Is It Used? Answer
Crash cart: What must be on a crash cart for medical emergency physicians?

What is in a crash cart?
The crash cart is the commonly used term to describe a self-contained, mobile unit that contains virtually all of the materials, drugs, and devices necessary to perform a code. The configuration of crash carts may vary, but most will be a waist high or chest high wheeled cart with many drawers. Many hospitals will also keep a defibrillator and heart monitor on top of the crash cart since these devices are also needed in most codes. Since the contents and organization of crash carts may vary, it is a good idea for you to make yourself aware of the crash cart that you are most likely going to encounter during a code.

The size, shape, and contents of a crash cart may be different between hospitals and between different departments within the same hospital. For example, an adult crash cart is set up differently than a pediatric crash cart or crash cart on the medical service may be different than the one on a surgical service.


Medications are usually kept in the top drawer of most crash carts. These need to be accessed and delivered as quickly as possible in emergent situations. Therefore, they need to be available to providers very easily. The medications are usually provided in a way that makes them easy to measure and dispense quickly.

The common set of first drawer medications might be:

  • Alcohol swabs
  • Amiodarone 150 mg/3ml vial
  • Atropine 1mg/10 ml syringe
  • Sodium bicarbonate 50mEq/50 ml syringe
  • Calcium chloride 1gm/10 ml syringe
  • Sodium chloride 0.9% 10 ml vial Inj. 20 ml vial
  • Dextrose 50% 0.5 mg/ml 50 ml syringe
  • Dopamine 400 mg/250 ml IV bag
  • Epinephrine 1 mg/10 ml (1:10,000) syringe
  • Sterile water
  • Lidocaine 100 mg 5ml syringes
  • Lidocaine 2 gm/250 ml IV bag
  • Povidone-Iodine swabstick
  • Vasopressin 20 units/ml 1 ml vial

If the crash cart also contains pediatric medications these may be contained in the second drawer. Often these would include:

  • Atropine 0.5 mg/ 5 ml syringe
  • Sodium bicarbonate 10 mEq/10 ml syringe
  • Saline flush syringes
  • Sodium chloride 0.9% 10 ml flush syringe

The second drawer of the crash cart might also contain saline solution of various sizes like 100 mL or 1 L bags. A crash cart in the surgery department may include Ringer’s lactate solution.


Many crash carts will also include most of the materials necessary to perform intubation. These may be contained in the third or fourth drawers depending on the setup of the particular crash cart.

The adult intubation drawer will contain:

  • Endotracheal tubes of various sizes
  • Nasopharyngeal and perhaps oropharyngeal airways
  • Laryngoscope handle and blades of different sizes
  • A flashlight with extra batteries
  • A syringe of sufficient size to inflate the cuff on it endotracheal tube
  • Stylets
  • Bite block
  • Tongue depressors
  • Newer setups may also include the materials needed to start quantitative waveform capnography like a nasal filter line

Pediatric intubation materials may be in a separate cart or if they are included in the adult crash cart they may occupy their own drawer. The pediatric intubation supply drawer may contain the following:

  • 2.5 mm uncuffed endotracheal tube
  • 3.0 mm – 5.5 mm microcuff endotracheal tubes
  • Pediatric Stylet (8 Fr)
  • Neonatal Stylet (6 Fr)
  • Nasopharyngeal and perhaps oropharyngeal airways,
  • Laryngoscope blades
  • Disposable Miller blades
  • Disposable Macintosh blades
  • Armboards of various sizes
  • Vacutainers for blood collection
  • Spinal needles
  • Suction catheters of various sizes
  • Bone marrow needles of various sizes
  • Feeding tubes
  • Umbilical vessel catheter
  • Disinfectants (swab sticks)
  • Pediatric IV kits

Intravenous lines

It is usually the case that the equipment necessarily to start an IV is in a separate drawer from materials needed to maintain an IV, such as the fluids in the tubing. The IV drawer(s) usually contain the following:

  • IV Start Kit
  • Angiocatheters 14 Ga and/or 16 Ga
  • Disinfectants (Chloraprep, Betadine, povidone-iodine)
  • Luer lock syringes of various sizes
  • Tourniquet tubing
  • Insyte autoguards of various sizes
  • Vacutainers
    • Blue top
    • Purple top
    • Green top
    • Red top
    • Spinal needles of various sizes
    • Regular needles of various sizes
    • 3-Way stopcock
    • Tape
    • Armboards
    • ABG syringes and sampling kits
    • Catheter tips
    • Tubing
    • IV solutions may also be kept in this drawer

Procedure drawer

The bottom drawer on crash carts is usually devoted to keeping prepackaged kits available for various urgent and emergent procedures (or it is where the IV solutions are kept). In any case, the following kits may be found in the procedure drawer:

  • ECG electrodes
  • Sterile gloves of various sizes
  • Sutures of various sizes and materials
  • Suction supplies
  • Salem pump
  • Cricothyroidotomy kit
  • Adult and pediatric cut down pack
  • Yankauer suction
  • Drapes to create a sterile field
  • Large bore needle and syringe (for tension pneumothorax)
  • Suction Cath Kit 14 Fr & 18 Fr
  • Lumbar puncture kit
  1. BLS

  2. ACLS

  3. PALS

  4. NEONATAL Resuscitation

What is in a crash cart?
What’s In a Crash Cart and How Is It Used?


Airway (oral and nasal) all sizes
McGill forceps, large and small
King Airway set (3) eliminates the need for a laryngoscope and endotracheal tubes
Bag valve mask (adult and pediatric)
Nasal cannula
Non-rebreather oxygen face masks (3 sizes)
IV start packs
Normal saline solution (1000ml bags)
IV tubing
Angiocaths (various sizes)
10ml normal saline flush syringes (3)
Alcohol preps
Monitor with defibrillator (preferred) or AED
Syringe nasal adaptor (nasal Narcan atomizer)
A checklist confirming everything that should be on the cart


Aspirin 81mg tablets
Nitroglycerin spray or 0.4mg tablets
Dextrose 50% (dextrose 25% if treating pediatrics)
Narcan 1mg/ml (6)
Epinephrine 1:10,000 Abboject™ (3)
Atropine Sulfate 1mg Abboject™ (3)
Amiodarone 150mg vial (4)
EpiPenⓇ (2)
EpiPen JrⓇ (2)
Solumedrol 125mg vial
Benadryl 50mg vial (2)
Adenosine 6mg (4)
Lopressor 10mg (2)
Cardiazem 20mg vial (2)
Pronestyl (procainamide) 1g in 10ml 100mg/ml vial (1)

A crash cart, otherwise known as a code cart, is an essential piece of equipment for doctors and nurses when they need to treat life-threatening conditions such as a cardiac arrest.

Hospitals can locate crash carts on wheels used in hospitals at the end of a ward where patients are most likely to need resuscitation or cardioversion. These could be cardiac wards, emergency departments, or geriatric wards.

The speed with which a medic can find these carts in hospitals for transportation and dispensing of emergency medication could be the difference between life and death.

Each physician may have their unique preferences as to what should be on their cart and the order in which they prefer to organize the medicines and equipment.

However, there are standard items that physicians will need on every crash cart that can potentially save lives.

Sides and Top of a Cart

The sides and top of a cart will carry materials and devices that physicians need to access immediately. This area can include a heart monitor, defibrillator with leads and paddles, CPR board, oxygen tank, suction devices, bag valve masks, a sharps bin and IV bags, and fluids.


While sometimes called trays, drawers, shelves on wheels, or medication compartments, the storage area on a crash cart is crucial. While each physician may organize their cart to their preference, they will all carry the same life-saving equipment.

Drawer 1

In a cardiac emergency, the defibrillator is probably the most critical piece of equipment. After that, breathing devices are the next tools the medic may need. The top drawer is likely to contain intubating equipment, endotracheal tubes, nasal devices, 10cc syringes, and laryngeal masks.

Drawer 2

Medications to help with patient distress may be next. Pharmaceuticals such as epinephrine, atropine, and sodium bicarbonate will be available.

Drawer 3

When stabilizing a patient who has suffered a cardiac arrest, the physician may attach an IV fluid from the bags stored on the cart. They are likely to have a dedicated drawer for storing syringes, catheters, adhesive materials, and drip lines to ensure this process can be efficient and smooth.

Drawer 4

Now that the patient is stabilizing, the physician may want to measure blood pressure, pupil dilation, and other vital signs. This drawer could contain a flashlight, blood pressure monitor, and thermometer. While this will all be on the crash cart, they will be for a quick reading of vital signs. After the physician puts these back on the wagon, nurses will use the equipment in the main hospital ward.

Drawer 5

This section could contain additional fluids, spare central lines, and medications. This drawer will usually be as a back-up to the leading equipment and drugs and only used in unusual circumstances.

Organization is Crucial

While the crash cart is essential for treating a cardiac arrest, and the physician will use the equipment mentioned to treat their patient, the organization of the cart is equally vital. If a physician has to search for the equipment they need, it may be too late to treat their patient by the time they find it.

A qualified professional will have clearly labeled each set of trays, drawers, and cabinets with a list of the devices and medications that they contain. After each use, a qualified professional must take the time to ensure they restock each drawer and that every piece of equipment is in the right place.

Mobile cardiac carts on wheels used in hospitals can be of use to physicians who work different shifts. There could be severe consequences if a colleague were to use a cart, and then not replace the used items.

Also, each cart should have clear instructions for each professional to follow in the event of a cardiac emergency. It may be the case that in the process of treating a heart-related condition, the physician decides they need to follow medical surgical emergency for life support protocols, in which case each member of the team needs to know what to do.

Final Thoughts

Cardiac crash carts can allow a physician to reach a patient quickly, having already collected a nearby cart with all the emergency medication equipment onboard. In these situations, response times are crucial, and having a mobile cardiac cart available could be the difference between a positive or negative patient outcome.

Last Updated: May 23, 2022