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Sedation is the act of calming by administration of a sedative. A sedative is a medication that commonly induces the nervous system to calm.


The process of sedation has two primary intentions. First, sedation is recommended to allow patients the ability to tolerate unpleasant diagnostic or surgical procedures and to relieve anxiety and discomfort. Second, sedation for uncooperative patients may expedite and simplify special procedures that require little or no movement. Additionally, sedation is often desirable to diminish fear associated with operative procedures. Sedation is typically used for common diagnostic tests that require prolonged immobilization such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed axial tomography (CAT) scanning. Some cases that require sedation may also necessitate the use of analgesics to decrease pain associated with a procedure or test.


Benzodiazepines (common sedative medication) have a cumulative effect. This means that if the patient has not had time to metabolize the previous dose and ingests more, then the sedative effect may increase. Because of these additive effects, these medications taken with other sedatives or alcohol (also a sedative hypnotic drug) may increase chances for accidental death. In general, most of the medications that induce sedation may alter breathing and cardiac stability. In patients with preexisting lung and/or heart disease, these medications should be monitored closely or not prescribed.


The future of anesthetic care involves the simultaneous administration of several drugs including IV medications and inhaled anesthetics. An extensive survey of death in 100,000 cases published in 1988 revealed that death within seven days was 2.9 times greater when one or two anesthetic drugs were used than when using three or more medications. As of 2000 this study is accepted as standard practice and multiple IV anesthetics is the preferable recommendation for optimal patient care.
The procedure for sedation is usually explained to the patient by an attending clinician. An IV access line is set in place for fluid replacement and injection of medications. A history is usually taken to assess risk and choice of medication. The patient typically signs consent forms and the possible side effects are explained. The day before the test, the patient may be required to maintain specified dietary restriction.
For outpatient surgery there are two types of sedation, conscious and unconscious sedation. Patients receiving conscious sedation are capable of rational responses, and they are able to maintain their airway for ventilation. The hallmark of conscious sedation is that it does not alter respiratory, cardiac, or reflex functions (nerve reflexes from the brain) to the level that requires external support for these vital functions. Patients receiving conscious sedation are cooperative, have stable vital signs (pulse, respiratory rate, and temperature), shorter recovery room convalescence, and lower risk of developing drug-induced complications. Unconscious sedation is a controlled state of anesthesia, characterized by partial or complete loss of protective nerve reflexes, including the ability to independently breathe and respond to commands. The patient is unable to cooperate, has labile (fluctuating) vital signs, prolonged recovery room convalescence, and higher risk of anesthetic complications.


Usually procedures for conscious sedation do not require preoperative or pre-testing orders. Clinical situations for unconscious sedation typically involve eating and drinking protocols starting the day before the procedure.
The age and physical status of the patient is useful in determining sensitivity. A detailed past history, especially prior experiences with sedatives and other anesthetics is an important part of preparatory assessment. It is important to determine if there were any untoward side effects associated with a previous medication. Patient positioning is important to prevent blood pressure changes or nerve damage associated with abnormal position.
Patients are also monitored for pulse rate, respiration, blood pressure, and temperature. Additionally, the heart is monitored using electrocardiography (ECG). Ventilation is assessed using a pulse oximeter. This machine is clipped with a special probe on one finger and can measure the levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide, which are reliable indicators of respiratory status.


The major goal for recovery room monitoring is assessment of residual drug effects. Recovery room monitoring primarily focuses on heart stability, respiratory adequacy and return to previous brain functioning.


The original forms of diazepam (Valium, a very common sedative) caused irritation of veins and phlebitis. Newer forms of diazepam (Dizac) are chemically improved to lower the possibility of vein irritation. Age and physical health are important risk factors. Preexisting medical conditions such as high blood pressure and heart and lung disease may increase the chance of developing undesirable side effects.

Normal results

Normal or uncomplicated results for sedation include alleviation of anxiety and discomfort. Coupled with analgesic, patients are usually pain-free. The normal progression post procedure or post operatively would be to return to baseline brain functioning, unassisted breathing, and normal heart rate and rhythm.

Abnormal results

Patients may have excessive nausea and vomiting associated with narcotic analgesia (if this is indicated). Excessive drowsiness can occur secondary to benzodiazepine-induced sedation. The patient can also develop hypoventilation (a decrease in ventilation), airway obstruction, high or low blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythms, nausea, vomiting, and shivering.

Key terms

Baseline — A return to an original state.
Diazepam — One of the most commonly used sedative-hypnotic medications.



Fleisher, Gary R., et al. Textbook of Pediatric Emergency Medicine. 4th ed. Lippincott Wlliams & Wilkins, 2000.
Miller, Ronald D., et al, editors. Anesthesia. 5th ed. Churchill Livingstone, Inc., 2000.
Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


1. the allaying of irritability or excitement, especially by administration of a sedative.
2. the state so induced.
conscious sedation in the nursing interventions classification, a nursing intervention defined as administration of sedatives, monitoring of the patient's response, and provision of necessary physiological support during a diagnostic or therapeutic procedure.
Miller-Keane Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Medicine, Nursing, and Allied Health, Seventh Edition. © 2003 by Saunders, an imprint of Elsevier, Inc. All rights reserved.


1. The act of calming, especially by the administration of a sedative.
2. The state of being calm.
[L. sedatio, to calm, allay]
Farlex Partner Medical Dictionary © Farlex 2012


1. Reduction of anxiety, stress, irritability, or excitement by administration of a sedative agent or drug.
2. The state or condition induced by a sedative.
The American Heritage® Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2007, 2004 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.


The production/induction of a sedative state. See Conscious sedation, Terminal sedation.
McGraw-Hill Concise Dictionary of Modern Medicine. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


1. The act of calming, especially by the administration of a sedative.
2. The state of being calm.
[L. sedatio, fr. sedo, pp. sedatus to calm, allay]
Medical Dictionary for the Health Professions and Nursing © Farlex 2012


The use of a mild drug to calm, alleviate anxiety and promote sleep.
Collins Dictionary of Medicine © Robert M. Youngson 2004, 2005


The act of calming, especially with a sedative.
[L. sedatio, to calm, allay]
Medical Dictionary for the Dental Professions © Farlex 2012
References in periodicals archive ?
Children are much more likely now to receive procedural sedation because of improvements in training over the last 10-15 years, and the trend needs to continue.
The usage of ketamine-propofol combination (ketofol) was first described in 1990s with observation of decreased emergence reactions after propofol use prior to ketamine administration.13 This combination has been used in a variety of settings during burn dressing change, interventional radiology procedures and procedural sedation in emergency department.14-16 However, we could find no studies about single syringe ketamine propofol combination used in paediatric MRIs.
* Pediatric intensivists provide fluid management, monitoring, and procedural sedation. * Pediatric emergency medicine physicians provide the initial assessment and urgent care to patients who arrive in the emergency department with burn injuries.
Anis, "Safety and clinical effectiveness of midazolam versus propofol for procedural sedation in the emergency department: a systematic review," Academic Emergency Medicine, vol.
To compare the effectiveness and safety of dexmedetomidine with a combination of fentanyl and midazolam for procedural sedation during awake fiberoptic intubation.
Procedural sedation for pediatric patients in the emergency department at King Khalid University Hospital Riyadh, KSA.
Even paediatric emergency fast track clinics and paediatric triage are considered as another source to deal and managing non-acute paediatric emergencies conserving the precious time of management.9 Similarly paediatric fractures/dislocations, procedures and laceration repair can be managed early with the introduction of the procedural sedation and preventing the resource and time and hence are able to discharge the child home early and reduce emergency congestion.
The text addresses assessment, the airway, shock, the cardiovascular system, the central nervous system, trauma, maltreatment, nontraumatic surgical and orthopedic emergencies, medical and neonatal emergencies, procedural sedation and analgesia, and the special needs of children dependent on technology.
timely provision of analgesia, minimum monitoring standards for procedural sedation and rapid sequence intubation, structured triage, allowing relatives access to patients undergoing resuscitation, the use of ultrasound for rapid diagnosis of life-threatening pathology, and supervision of junior staff.