National Museum of American History Collects Prototype Medical Emergency Crash Cart

August 31, 2010
The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History recently accepted the donation of a prototype Medical Emergency Crash Cart, referred to as Max, from the ECRI Institute of Plymouth Meeting, Pa. The cart, designed to save lives by enabling rapid medical action, carries instruments for cardiopulmonary resuscitation and other medical supplies while also functioning as a support litter for the patient. Max will be added to the museum’s Division of Medicine and Science, which preserves a collection of objects related to cardiology and emergency medicine.

Max was originally designed and patented by Dr. Joel J. Nobel, while he was a surgical resident at Philadelphia’s Pennsylvania Hospital in 1965, three years before he founded ECRI Institute. Nobel’s invention was timely, as the United States was at the forefront of cardiology in the 20th century, a dynamic new medical specialty.

Max helped enhanced hospitals’ efficiency in emergencies by enabling doctors and nurses to save time, thereby increasing the chances of saving a life; the cart and its supplies improved response time and minimized errors. Max efficiently gathered all the life-saving materials and brought these to the patient, allowing for faster, better-executed treatment. These patient-centered qualities are now emphasized in today’s rapidly changing health-care system.

The prototype cart, 34 inches tall and 79 inches long when fully extended, is outfitted with the medical equipment and pharmaceuticals that were used in the late 1960s and 1970s, including a pneumatic cardiac compressor, electrocardiograph, respirator, pacemaker and intubation gear. The cart also recorded voice data from the moment it was moved and ECGs, facilitating later event analysis and systems improvements.

“Max is a representation of an important period in the history of cardiology and cardiac surgery,” said Brent D. Glass, director of the museum, “Dr. Nobel’s focus on human factors, prevention of operator errors and speed of operation paved the way to greater efficiency in American medicine.”

“ECRI Institute is sharing the emergency crash cart with the Smithsonian Institution and with the American public, so it can continue to tell the story of invention and innovation in the field of medicine,” said Anthony Vincent, ECRI Institute Trustee.

LIFE magazine documented Dr. Nobel’s invention in a 1966 four-page feature article titled “Max, the Lifesaver.”

The National Museum of American History collects, preserves and displays American heritage in the areas of social, political, cultural, scientific and military history. To mark the 50th anniversary of the Greensboro lunch counter sit-in, the museum explores stories of freedom and justice, both in Washington and online. To learn more about the museum, check http://americanhistory.si.edu. For Smithsonian information, the public may call (202) 633-1000, (202) 633-5285 (TTY). ECRI Institute, a nonprofit organization, dedicates itself to bringing the discipline of applied scientific research to health care to discover which medical procedures, devices, drugs and processes are best to enable improved patient care. ECRI Institute is designated as a Collaborating Center of the World Health Organization and an Evidence-based Practice Center by the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. ECRI Institute PSO is listed as a federally certified Patient Safety Organization by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. # # #