FDA warns hospitals of battery-powered medical cart fires, explosions

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Dec. 27 issued a warning to healthcare professionals and administrators of the potential safety risks associated with battery-powered mobile medical carts following reports of explosions, fires, smoking or overheating of equipment.

Such incidents have required hospital evacuations, according to the FDA.

Battery-powered 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, according to the report. These carts usually have high capacity lithium or lead acid batteries that are capable of powering medical devices and computers for hours.

The FDA has received medical device reports of hospital fires and other health hazards associated with the batteries used in mobile medical carts and their charges. These events, which include smoking, overheating, fires and explosions, can occur with lithium, lead acid and other types of batteries and result in equipment and facility damage, hospital evacuation and patient and staff injury, according to the report.

The FDA further warns that lithium battery fires are very difficult to extinguish. In several reports it received, firefighters had to bury mobile medical cart batteries to put out a fire.

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