Sedation

Overview

Sedation is the use of medicine to help you feel relaxed and comfortable during a procedure. Sometimes it's used to help with pain.

Sedation may be used with an injection to numb the area or with other medicine to reduce pain. It's often used in procedures like a colonoscopy or a biopsy. It also can be used in many surgeries. Examples include knee surgery and hernia repair.

You may be awake and able to talk with your care team. Or you may fall asleep. You might remember little, if anything, of the procedure or surgery.

How is sedation done?

Sedation is usually given in a vein in the arm (intravenously, or IV).

It is often used with local or regional anesthesia. The local type numbs a small part of the body. The regional type blocks pain to a larger area of the body.

While you are sedated, a doctor or nurse will watch you closely. They'll make sure you stay safe and comfortable. In some cases, an anesthesia professional may be there during the procedure to help keep you safe. This is often called monitored anesthesia care (MAC).

How do you prepare?

Your doctor will tell you what to expect when you have sedation. You'll get instructions to help you prepare. They'll include when to stop eating or drinking. If you take medicine, you'll be told what you can and can't take before sedation. You'll need to bring someone who can take you home.

What are the risks?

Serious problems are rare. They include breathing that slows or stops and an allergic reaction to the medicine.

Some health issues may increase the risk of problems. These include:

  • Smoking.
  • Sleep apnea. This happens during sleep when a blocked airway causes breathing problems.
  • Being overweight.

What can you expect after sedation?

Your doctors and nurses will take care of you until the sedation has worn off enough for you to go home safely. You may feel some pain or discomfort from your procedure. If you have pain, don't be afraid to say so. Pain medicine works better if you take it before the pain gets bad.

You may feel some of the side effects of sedation for a while. They include:

  • Feeling tired or sleepy.
  • Feeling dizzy or unsteady.

If you've had sedation, wait 24 hours before you drive or operate machinery. Don't make important decisions, go to work or school, or sign legal documents until you are recovered. It takes time for the medicine's effects to completely wear off.

Related Information

Credits

Current as of: February 16, 2022

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
John M. Freedman MD - Anesthesiology
Heather Quinn MD - Family Medicine

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