Procedural Sedation

Procedural Sedation

At UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, we believe parents and guardians can contribute to the success of their child’s visit and we invite you to participate. Please read the following information to learn about this medication, its use for your child’s surgery, and how you can help.

Fast Facts About Procedural Sedation

Your child’s test or surgery will be done under procedural sedation (se-DAY-shun), which means that your child will be given medication to make him or her very drowsy and relaxed during the procedure.

  • This kind of medication is used when your child does not need to be sound asleep for the procedure, but needs to be very calm for it. 
  • Although not fully asleep, your child will not feel any pain during the procedure.
  • The doctor doing your child’s test will give the sedation medication.

Home Preparation

When sedation is needed, there are important rules for eating and drinking that must be followed in the hours before the procedure.  One business day before your child’s procedure, you will receive a phone call from a nurse between the hours of 1 and 9 p.m.  (Nurses do not make these calls on weekends or holidays.)  Please have paper and a pen ready to write down these important instructions.

  • The nurse will give you specific eating and drinking instructions for your child based on your child’s age.  Following are the usual instructions given for eating and drinking.  No matter what age your child is, you should follow the specific instructions given to you on the phone by the nurse.  

For children older than 12 months:

  • After midnight the night before the procedure, do not give any solid food or non-clear liquids.  That includes milk, formula, juices with pulp, coffee and chewing gum or candy.

For infants under 12 months:

  • Up to 6 hours before the scheduled arrival time, formula-fed babies may be given formula. 
  • Up to 4 hours before the scheduled arrival time, breastfed babies may nurse.

For all children:

  • Up to 2 hours before the scheduled arrival time, give only clear liquids.  Clear liquids include water, Pediayte®, Kool-Aid® and juices you can see through, such as apple or white grape juice.
  • In the 2 hours before the scheduled arrival time, give nothing to eat or drink.
  • If your child takes daily medication, you may give it unless specifically told not to do so by your child’s doctor or the scheduling nurse.

Getting Drowsy

Once your child has been registered for the procedure, a nurse will meet with you to take your child’s vital signs, weight and medical history.  As the parent or legal guardian, you will be asked to sign a consent form before the sedation medication is given.

  • Your child’s doctor will decide which type of medication is right for your child, depending on your child’s age, medical history and the type of surgery or test being done.
  • Medication may be given by mouth, through the nose, into the rectum, or directly into a vein through an intravenous (IV) line. 
  • The medication will work in one of two ways:  In a single dose that takes effect slowly and lasts throughout the surgery or test, or in a continuous dose throughout the procedure. 
  • You may stay with your child until he or she is very drowsy.  You will be taken to the waiting room when the surgery or test is ready to begin.
  • During the procedure, your child’s heart rate, blood pressure, temperature and blood oxygen level will be checked continuously.

Waking Up/Going Home

Procedural Sedation
  • When the surgery or test is done, you will be called to the room to be with your child as the medications wear off.  The length of time it will take the medications to wear off will vary, as some children take longer than others to become alert. 
  • Children coming out of sedation react in different ways. Your child might cry, be fussy or confused, feel sick to his or her stomach, or vomit. These reactions are normal and will go away as the sedation medication wears off.
  • When your child is discharged, he or she might still be groggy and should take it easy for the day.
  • Your child may resume normal activities, eating and drinking at the rate he or she is comfortable with when you get home.
  • A nurse will call you 24 hours after the test to check how your child is doing.

Special Needs

If your child has any special needs or health issues you feel the doctor needs to know about, please call the office of the doctor who will be doing the test before the test and ask to speak with a nurse.  It is important to notify us in advance about any special needs your child might have.