Kids Health Info

Sedation for procedures 2: Sedation medicine

  • Sedation for procedures (called 'Procedural sedation'), is when medicine is used to reduce pain and stress in children.  It may make them feel calm or sleepy during their procedures or tests.  This factsheet outlines reasons for sedation, explains some of the risks and ways you can help your child before, during and after sedation. 

    Ketamine, Midazolam and Nitrous Oxide gas are the medicines used most often for sedation in children.  The nurse or doctor can tell you which one of these medicines your child will have.


    Ketamine is a strong sedative and a strong pain killer.  It is commonly used in hospitals all over Australia for sedation and pain relief in children. When your child has ketamine, they get sleepy and do not remember what happened.  There are some special features about sedation with ketamine for you to know:

    • It is given by injection.  It may be given by injection in to the muscle ('IM') or in to the vein ('IV').
    • Your child may seem to be awake with eyes open after having ketamine.
    • Your child will not feel any pain and will not remember the procedure.
    • Your child may move and need someone to hold them still.
    • Your child  may drool.
    • Occasionally, as your child wakes up they may have some distress or agitation, hallucinations or nightmares. These sensations usually improve if you comfort your child in a quiet area until they are fully awake.  For example you can cuddle them softly and talk to them quietly and calmly about some good things, such as a recent birthday party.


    • Midazolam will make your child sleepy but does not provide pain relief.
    • It can be given as a liquid, injection (IV) or by suppository (PR).
    • Sometimes your child may need pain relief as well.
    • Your child may not remember the procedure.

    Nitrous oxide gas

    • Nitrous oxide provides sedation (makes your child sleepy) AND pain relief.
    • It is a gas that your child breathes in through a mask or a mouthpiece something like a straw.
    • Different flavours can be put on the mask to hide the taste of the gas.
    • The gas works quickly and wears off quickly.
    • Your child may not remember the procedure.

    For more information

    Please read all factsheets in the series 'Sedation for procedures':







    This fact sheet produced by The Emergency Department in consultation with the Department of Anaesthesia and the Pain Management Service at the Royal Children's Hospital.  First upload: July 2005.

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This information is intended to support, not replace, discussion with your doctor or healthcare professionals. The authors of these consumer health information handouts have made a considerable effort to ensure the information is accurate, up to date and easy to understand. The Royal Children's Hospital, Melbourne accepts no responsibility for any inaccuracies, information perceived as misleading, or the success of any treatment regimen detailed in these handouts. Information contained in the handouts is updated regularly and therefore you should always check you are referring to the most recent version of the handout. The onus is on you, the user, to ensure that you have downloaded the most up-to-date version of a consumer health information handout.