Some children can become anxious when they come to the hospital for treatment or medical procedures. As a result, they may not be able to sit still or relax enough to receive care or complete the necessary procedure. To help your child feel more comfortable, the doctor may suggest sedation.
Sedation vs. Anesthesia
Some patients benefit from sedation during painful or long tests and procedures. A multi-specialty team sees each child, including a pediatric sedation physician, pediatric sedation nurse and a Child Life Specialist. Here are some common questions and answers about pediatric sedation and how it differs from pediatric anesthesia.
Deep sedation is typically used for longer procedures where "holding still" is important such as MRIs or CT scans. It is also given for procedures that may be painful or uncomfortable such as bone marrow biopsy or abscess drainage. In these cases a pain medicine will be given prior to the procedure.
Effects of sedation
A child will be given medication to help him relax or "go to sleep" depending on the test. This will help them tolerate medical procedures easier to achieve better test results. In most cases with pediatric sedation, your child will probably not even remember the procedure at all. If they experience pain, medicine to relieve the pain may also be given.
Benefits of sedation
In addition to not requiring a breathing tube, a child will be admitted as an outpatient that usually allows for a shorter hospital stay. As with general anesthesia, specialty trained doctors as well as experienced registered nurses will be caring for your child while they are sedated.
There are three levels of sedation:
- Minimal sedation is given to reduce anxiety during the procedure. Your child will remain awake and may respond normally when spoken to. This sedation may be used for quick procedures such as starting an I.V. or putting in a catheter.
- Moderate sedation is used for minor emergency procedures. When this is provided, your child will respond to stimulation but may be sleepy and unsteady.
- Deep sedation is typically used for longer procedures where "holding still" is important such as MRIs or CT scans. It is also given for procedures that may be painful or uncomfortable such as bone marrow tests or I and Ds (incision and drainage). In these cases a pain medicine will be given prior to the procedure.
Pediatric sedation is unique to Children's Hospital and just another reason to bring your child to our hospital. Your pediatrician can discuss with you the possible need for sedation during your child's procedure or test. If there are any questions, your doctor will talk with you.
Sedation is only needed for some tests and only right for some children. Depending on the age, medical problems and test your child is having, a doctor trained to administer sedation will evaluate your child prior to the procedure or test. If your child has certain medical problems such as airway issues or if the doctor has concerns about him being able to be sedated safely, your child may be referred to general anesthesia.
Many tests can be also completed using distraction techniques, such as iPads and play, offered by our Child Life Specialist. However, should your child need sedation, take comfort as a parent knowing that Children's Hospital's doctors and nurses are here to make your child's hospital experience easier and as pain free as possible.