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Moderate Sedation

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jul 4, 2022.

What do I need to know about moderate sedation?

Moderate sedation, or conscious sedation, is medicine used during procedures to help you feel relaxed and calm. You will be awake and able to follow directions without anxiety or pain. You will remember little to none of the procedure. Moderate sedation can be used for procedures such as a colonoscopy, wound repair, cataract removal, or dental work. The medicine is given as a pill, shot, inhaled solution, or injection through an IV.

How do I prepare for moderate sedation?

Your healthcare provider will talk to you about how to prepare for moderate sedation. He may tell you not to eat or drink anything for 8 hours before moderate sedation. You may be able to drink clear liquids up until 2 hours before moderate sedation. Tell healthcare providers if you have any allergies, heart problems, or breathing problems. Arrange for someone to drive you home and stay with you for 24 hours. You may feel sleepy and need help doing things at home. Another person may need to call 911 if you cannot be woken.

What will happen during moderate sedation?

Your healthcare provider will give you enough medicine to keep you relaxed and calm. Your healthcare provider will monitor your blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing. You will be on a heart monitor and a pulse oximeter. A heart monitor is a safety device that stays on continuously to record your heart's electrical activity. A pulse oximeter is a device that measures the amount of oxygen in your blood. You may get oxygen through a mask placed over your nose and mouth or through small tubes placed in your nostrils.

What will happen after moderate sedation?

Healthcare providers will monitor you until you are awake. You may need extra oxygen if your blood oxygen level is lower than it should be. Ask your healthcare provider before you take off the mask or oxygen tubing. You may be able to go home when you are alert and can stand up. This may take 1 to 2 hours after you have received moderate sedation. You may feel tired, weak, or unsteady on your feet after you get sedation. You may also have trouble concentrating or short-term memory loss. These symptoms should go away in 24 hours or less.

What are the risks of moderate sedation?

  • You may get a headache or nausea from the medicine. You may have problems with your short-term memory. Your skin may itch or your eyes may water. You may not get enough sedation, or it may wear off quickly. You may feel restless during the procedure or as you wake up.
  • Too much medicine can cause deep sedation. Your healthcare provider may have trouble waking you, and you may need medicine to help you wake up. Your breathing may not be regular, or it may stop. You may need a ventilator to help you breathe. Your risk for problems with sedation is higher if you have heart or lung disease, a head injury, or drink alcohol.

Call 911 or have someone else call for any of the following:

  • You have sudden trouble breathing.
  • You cannot be woken.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • You have a severe headache or dizziness.
  • Your heart is beating faster than usual.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You have a fever.
  • You have nausea or are vomiting for more than 8 hours after the procedure.
  • You have a cough or a headache.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

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