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Propofol (Diprivan) for sedation

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What is sedation?

Sedation is medicine to help your child relax or sleep during a procedure.

It is very important that your child is comfortable and does not move during the procedure to get the best results. Propofol (proe-po-fole) is a sedation medicine that acts very quickly to make your child go to sleep.

As with all medicines, there are benefits, side effects, and risks. The doctor will discuss these with you. Be sure to ask the doctor any questions you have before signing the consent form for sedation.

Before propofol can be given, all patients with a uterus 10 years old or older, are younger than 10 but have started their periods, OR state they are sexually active, are screened for pregnancy. Because sedation medicine can pose a serious risk to pregnancy, we need to know whether or not a patient is pregnant in order to provide the safest care possible.  If a pregnancy test will be required, your child will be asked for a urine (pee) sample just after check-in. Refer to the education handout "Pregnancy testing before a procedure" for more information. 

For your child's safety, do not give food or liquids before the procedure. Follow the nurse's instructions or the procedure may be delayed or canceled.

Your child will need an exam with their primary care provider within 30 days before the procedure.

How does propofol work?

Propofol is a very short-acting medicine that provides sedation in low doses and anesthesia in higher doses. It is given through a small tube in the vein (IV). Putting in the IV can be uncomfortable. We will help your child with the discomfort by working with you on positioning, distraction, and numbing medication that can help.

Propofol starts working very quickly, usually in less than a minute. It is also a very short-acting medicine, wearing off in 5 to 20 minutes. Most procedures will require more than one dose. For long procedures, the medicine may be given through the IV during the whole test time. The longer it is used, the longer it takes to wear off. Every child wakes up differently. Allow your child to sleep until ready to wake up.

What are the side effects?

Slower, shallower breathing is the most common side effect. Children are given oxygen because of this. Cardiac, respiratory and blood pressure monitors are used for safety. Some children may need breathing support with an oxygen bag and mask. Rarely, children need a breathing tube to help them through the procedure.

Propofol may lower blood pressure. Your child's blood pressure will be monitored closely and IV fluids may be given before or during the procedure to help maintain normal blood pressure.

A sedation provider will be present during the procedure to monitor and treat any of the above side effects.

Some children have muscle movement while going to sleep. This is normal.

What happens when the test is over?

Propofol wears off very quickly. Usually, children wake up comfortably. Sometimes they may be a little crabby and confused, but this is usually for a very short time. Unlike similar medicines, vomiting after propofol is rare.

Your child will be monitored by a sedation nurse until the medicine has worn off. Outpatients will recover in the department where the procedure was done, or in the Sedation and Procedural Services unit (SPS). (You must wait with your child in SPS.) Inpatients will return to their nursing unit and be monitored there until fully awake.

How should I care for my child?

Although the propofol wears off after about 10-20 minutes, some children sleep a little longer. This is a normal sleep. It is fine to talk to your child in a soothing voice or hold your child's hand while he or she is waking up.

Most of the effects of propofol will be gone by the time your child goes home. Your child may drink or eat right away, unless there is a reason not to, such as another test. Once home, your child may be as active as usual, and participate in normal activities with supervision. Your child may be dizzy and unsteady, so your child must be watched closely to protect from injury. 

If your child is of driving age, they should not drive or operate any other machinery or equipment for 24 hours after the medicine.

When should I call the doctor?

  • questions about the procedure or results
  • vomiting more than twice
  • extreme irritability
  • trouble arousing your child
  • signs of allergic reaction:
    • fever or chills
    • rash or hives
    • wheezing
    • trouble breathing - call 911.


This information is not specific to your child but provides general information. If you have questions, please call the number provided by your doctor or nurse. If your clinic is closed, call the nurse triage line at 952-931-3515 to discuss your symptoms.

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This page is not specific to your child, but provides general information on the topic above. If you have any questions, please call your clinic. For more reading material about this and other health topics, please call or visit Children's Minnesota Family Resource Center library, or visit

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