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Deep Sedation in Children

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Oct 31, 2022.

What do I need to know about deep sedation?

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 is deep sedation 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 do I prepare my child for deep sedation?

Your child's provider will talk to you about how to prepare your child for deep sedation. He or she 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 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 provider will place an IV in your child's arm or hand. Your child's 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?

  • 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 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.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's healthcare providers to decide what care you want for your child. 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.

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Further information

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