WASHINGTON – Battery-powered medical carts have exploded or burst into flames in numerous hospitals, the Food and Drug Administration said Wednesday in a warning letter to health care providers.

The FDA reported that the carts typically contain high capacity lithium or lead acid batteries that can power workstations and medical devices for many hours. Although convenient, these battery-powered carts can spark, overheat, emit noxious fumes, and cause other hazards. The agency urged hospitals and clinics to pay greater attention to preventive maintenance.

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  • Lithium Batteries grow a crystalline structure that passes through any seperator breach eventually touches the anode causing heat, fire, and explosion. This growth occurs but will occur in cracked seperator environments. There is a new lithium battery design that eliminates this hazardous situation and failure mode, but the new design is not in the medical device makers product.

  • In my experience lately, battery quality from the manufacturers are more and more of very poor quality–even from name brand manufacturers. While this article is a good reminder for clinical engineering personnel, a follow-up story researching the decline in battery quality could also shed some light on this emerging problem.

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