Kids Health Info

Sedation for procedures - for the inpatient

  • This fact sheet is for children having sedation for a procedure who are inpatients (i.e. staying overnight) at The Royal Children's Hospital.

    Part one: about sedation

    Sedation is a medicine given to children to make them feel sleepy and relaxed. This medicine can be given by drinking, breathing in a gas or by an injection.

    Reasons for having sedation

    Your child may become distressed or have pain when having certain test, treatment and procedures. Procedural sedation (sedation for procedures) aims to reduce your child's pain and anxiety. The sedation may make them feel sleepy and/or make them unable to remember the procedure. The procedures can then be done causing less distress for you and your child.

    Permission to give sedation

    As the parent or caregiver you must give us consent for sedation. You need to understand the reasons for sedation and the following risks:

    What you need to know before consenting for sedation

    1. We will carefully check your child's breathing and if required, we will give your child oxygen through a mask or breathing tube.
    2. Sedation can fail and another method may need to be used.
    3. Medications for sedation can make your child feel sick.
      Children may vomit. Very rarely, they may breathe the vomit into their lungs, which may require some specific treatment.
    4. Some children may have allergies to the medicine used for sedation.Theymayneed to be treated with extra medicines such as antihistamines.
    5. All children will be watched by our trained staff during and after the procedure.

    Part two: helping your child

    Helping your child before the procedure

    • Ask the doctor/ nurse to explain the procedure to you and to your child.
    • Talk to your child about some ways to cope (for example - looking at an interactive book, using their imagination to be in a nice place or blowing bubbles).
    • It helps not being too upset or nervous yourself - your child will notice this.

    Helping your child during the procedure

    • Having a parent (or another adult who knows the child) stay with them is usually helpful.
    • The level in which you will be able to engage/involve your child will depend on how deeply sedated your child becomes. Your child may need reminders of the coping methods you decided upon earlier. For example, "blow away the hurt." This sort of distraction is very helpful.
    • Giving your child a sense of control with some simple choices maybe helpful. Allow them to choose things they may like eg. music or video options, which finger the oxygen probe may be placed on.
    • It is not helpful to allow your child to decide the exact moment the procedure is going to occur.
    • Don't criticise, apologise to, or bargain with your child while the procedure is happening.

    Helping your child after the procedure

    • Remain with your child. They may not remember where they are or why they are in hospital.
    • Focus on the good things your child did.  For example, "you did a great job in blowing away the hurt."

     Part three: the next 24 hours

    The delayed effects of the medicines may make your child a bit confused, sleepy or clumsy for the next 24 hours. You need to be extra careful in caring for and supervising your child for the next 24 hours.

    • If your child wants to sleep let them do so. They may need more sleep because of the sedation.
    • Sometimes children may feel sick or vomit if they eat a big meal too soon after sedation. Fruit juice, jelly and soup are good options.
    • Supervise all playing and bathing for the next 8 hours after getting home. DO NOT let your child swim or use play equipment (bikes, monkey bars etc) that might cause an accident (for the next 24 hours).

    Key points to remember

    • Sedation is commonly used in children for procedures.
    • You need to give consent before your child has sedation.
    • Make sure you understand the reasons for and the risks of sedation.
    • Be as open and honest as you can with your child about what is going to happen.  It helps not to be too upset yourself.

    This fact sheet produced by The Emergency Department in consultation with the Department of Anaesthesia, the Royal Children's Hospital. First uploaded: May 2006.

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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.