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Deep Sedation in Children


Deep sedation

is medicine given during procedures or treatments to keep your child asleep and comfortable. It will also prevent him or her from remembering the procedure or treatment. Your child cannot be easily woken up during deep sedation, and he or she may need help to breathe.

Why deep sedation is given:

Deep sedation may be used to help your child's body heal after an injury or illness. It may be used to relax your child if he or she is on a ventilator. It may also be used during painful procedures such as bandage changes, repair of a laceration, or drainage of an abscess. Deep sedation may be given to prevent your child from moving during a test, such as a lumbar puncture or bone biopsy. Deep sedation can be given as an IV injection, a shot, a pill, or through an inhaled solution.

How to prepare your child for deep sedation:

Your child's healthcare provider will talk to you about how to prepare your child for deep sedation. He may tell you not to give your child anything to eat or drink for 8 hours before deep sedation. You can breastfeed your child up until 4 hours before deep sedation. You can give your child clear liquids up until 2 hours before deep sedation. Tell your child's healthcare provider if he or she has any allergies, breathing problems, or heart problems. Bring another adult with you on the ride home, to monitor your child for problems after sedation. A second adult can ride with your child in the backseat while you drive.

What will happen during deep sedation:

  • A healthcare provider will place an IV in your child's arm or hand. Your child's healthcare provider will give your child enough medicine to keep him or her asleep and comfortable. Your child's heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing will be monitored closely.
  • If your child cannot breathe well on his or her own during deep sedation, he or she may need an endotracheal tube. An endotracheal tube is a thin, plastic tube that is inserted through the nose or mouth and into the lungs. It is attached to a ventilator. A ventilator is a machine that gives your child oxygen and breathes for him or her.

What will happen after deep sedation:

  • Healthcare providers will monitor your child until he or she is awake. Your child may need extra oxygen if his or her blood oxygen level is lower than it should be. Ask your child's healthcare provider before you take off the mask or oxygen tubing. As your child wakes up, he or she may cry or have difficulty getting comfortable. This is normal after deep sedation. Speak in a quiet, calm voice to your child to help him or her relax. Your child may be able to go home after he or she is alert, can sit up, and talk appropriately for his or her age. This may take 1 to 2 hours after your child has received deep sedation.
  • Your child may be sleepy and need frequent naps after he or she goes home. You may notice that your child has problems with short-term memory. Your child may also feel weak or have trouble with his or her balance. These symptoms should go away in 24 hours or less.

Call 911 for any of the following:

  • Your child cannot be woken.
  • Your child has trouble breathing.

Seek care immediately if:

  • Your child complains of a severe headache or dizziness, or cries constantly.
  • Your child's heart is beating faster than usual.

Contact your child's healthcare provider if:

  • Your child has a fever or chills.
  • Your child has nausea or is vomiting for longer than 8 hours after the procedure.
  • Your child's skin is itchy, swollen, or he or she has a rash.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.

Care for your child:

  • Watch your child closely for the next 24 hours. Do not leave your child alone in the bath or shower. Do not let your child cook, use appliances, or play outside unless you are watching him or her.
  • Limit your child's activity to prevent accidents. Have your child lie on the couch or rest quietly. Walk with your child to the bathroom. Do not let your child play sports or do vigorous activity. Do not let your child ride a bike, swim, play on swing sets, or play on jungle gyms. Your child can return to his or her normal activities in 24 hours.
  • Feed your child slowly to prevent nausea and vomiting. If your child is younger than 1 year, feed him or her half of the usual feeding 1 hour after sedation. Wait 2 hours after sedation to feed your older child. Start with clear liquids such as cranberry juice or ginger-ale. If your child does not vomit after clear liquids, start giving your child his or her usual foods. Make sure your child drinks plenty of liquids when he or she can drink without vomiting. Liquids help flush the medicine out of his or her body. Ask how much liquid to give your child and which liquids are best for him or her.

Follow up with your child's healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.