Anesthesia - conscious sedation
Conscious sedation is a combination of medicines to help you relax (a sedative) and to block pain (an anesthetic) during a medical or dental procedure. You will probably stay awake, but may not be able to speak.
Conscious sedation lets you recover quickly and return to your everyday activities soon after your procedure.
A nurse, health care provider, or dentist, will give you conscious sedation in the hospital or outpatient clinic. Most of the time, it will not be an anesthesiologist. The medicine will wear off quickly, so it is used for short, uncomplicated procedures.
You may receive the medicine through an intravenous line (IV, in a vein) or a shot into a muscle. You will begin to feel drowsy and relaxed very quickly. If your provider gives you the medicine to swallow, you will feel the effects after about 30 to 60 minutes.
Your breathing will slow and your blood pressure may drop a little. Your provider will monitor you during the procedure to make sure you are OK. This provider will stay with you at all times during the procedure.
You should not need help with your breathing. But you may receive extra oxygen through a mask or IV fluids through a catheter (tube) into a vein.
You may fall asleep, but you will wake up easily to respond to people in the room. You may be able to respond to verbal cues. After conscious sedation, you may feel drowsy and not remember much about your procedure.
Conscious sedation is safe and effective for people who need minor surgery or a procedure to diagnose a condition.
Some of the tests and procedures that conscious sedation may be used for are:
Conscious sedation is usually safe. However, if you are given too much of the medicine, problems with your breathing may occur. A provider will be watching you during the whole procedure.
Providers always have special equipment to help you with your breathing, if needed. Only certain qualified providers can administer conscious sedation.
Tell the provider:
During the days before your procedure:
On the day of your procedure:
After conscious sedation, you will feel sleepy and may have a headache or feel sick to your stomach. During recovery, your finger will be clipped to a special device (pulse oximeter) to check the oxygen levels in your blood. Your blood pressure will be checked with an arm cuff about every 15 minutes.
You should be able to go home 1 to 2 hours after your procedure.
When you are home:
Conscious sedation is generally safe, and is an option for procedures or diagnostic tests.
Hernandez A, Sherwood ER. Anesthesiology principles, pain management, and conscious sedation. In: Townsend CM Jr, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 21st ed. St Louis, MO: Elsevier; 2022:chap 14.
Vuyk J, Sitsen E, Reekers M. Intravenous anesthetics. In: Grooper MA, ed. Miller's Anesthesia. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 23.BACK TO TOP
Review Date: 3/11/2023
Reviewed By: Debra G. Wechter, MD, FACS, General Surgery Practice Specializing in Breast Cancer, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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