Sedation Medications

The medications used for sedation vary depending on a child’s age, weight, developmental level, health history, physical exam and the type of test being performed.

A sedation nurse practitioner, physician assistant or physician will evaluate the child prior to the test and discuss the sedation plan with the parents, including side effects, risks and options.

Medications Commonly Used for Sedation

Chloral hydrate

Chloral hydrate is a medication given by mouth to infants for non-painful procedures. Infants usually fall asleep within 20 minutes. However, it can take as little as five minutes or as much as 45 minutes before a child falls asleep. A smaller second dose usually will be given if a baby is not asleep within 30 minutes. Once asleep, the infant will usually stay asleep for about an hour. This medication has a bad taste and it is common for infants to spit and sputter when the medicine is given. The child might continue to be drowsy and irritable during the rest of the day.


Midazolam (brand name: Versed) is a medication used to help ease anxiety. This medication is a Benzodiazepine, it belongs to the same family as Valium, and it can be given orally or intravenously. Midazolam may be given by itself to help a child relax or in combination with other medications to help a child sleep through a test or procedure.

Given alone and by mouth, the medicine will take about 20 minutes to take effect and will only make a child relax. This medication alone is not effective for moderate or deep sedation.


Pentobarbital (brand name: nembutal) is a sedative medication generally given intravenously. Children usually fall asleep within a few minutes of receiving this medication. Small doses are given at first. Additional doses may be administered during a long procedure.

The effect of the medicine lasts about 30 minutes, but a child can be drowsy during the rest of the day.


Fentanyl (Brand name: Sublimaze) is an opiod, a medicine in the same family as Morphine. It is used to supplement sedation and works almost immediately when given intravenously. This medication is usually given to help ease children to sleep during sedation with Pentobarbital.

Additional medications used