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Sedation for a procedure

Article Translations: (Spanish) (Somali)

Your child has been scheduled for a procedure that will require them to hold very still to get the best results or may cause moderate discomfort.

Many young children are not able to be still enough when they are awake. Sedation is medicine to help your child sleep or relax during the procedure.

For some tests or procedures, you may be given the option to stay with your child as he or she is falling asleep.

As with all medicines, there are benefits, side effects, and risks. The sedation nurse will review these and answer any questions before sedating your child.

Before sedation 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 and liquids before the procedure. Follow the nurse’s instructions or the procedure may be delayed or cancelled.

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

What medicine will be given?

The type of medicine used to sedate your child depends on age, weight, and the type of procedure. The doctor will decide which medicine is best. Some children need more than one dose of medicine to fall asleep or to complete all of the procedure.

___ Oral medicine:                               (name of medicine)

Your child may drink this medicine while on your lap. Children become drowsy in about 5 to 15 minutes and may fall asleep or become very relaxed in about 20 to 40 minutes.

___ Rectal medicine:                               (name of medicine)

This medicine is given into the rectum. Children become drowsy within 10 to 15 minutes and fall asleep within 20 to 45 minutes, depending on the medicine used.

___ IV medicine:                              (name of medicine)

The nurse will put an IV (very small tube) in your child’s hand, arm, or foot using a needle. Putting in the IV can be uncomfortable. We will help your child with the discomfort by working with you on positioning, distraction and medication that can help. If your child has an indwelling IV access line or port, this may be used. Once the IV is in place, the nurse will give the medicine. It may sting for a moment.

Children become drowsy and may fall asleep or become very relaxed in 1-5 minutes, depending on the medicine used.

If the procedure causes discomfort, a medicine for pain, such as morphine or fentanyl, might be given through your child’s IV as part of the sedation plan.

 ___ IM medicine:                               (name of medicine)

This medicine is given into the muscle as an injection (shot). This can be uncomfortable. We will help your child with the discomfort by working with you on positioning, distraction and medication that can help. Children become drowsy in about 5-10 minutes and will fall asleep within 10-20 minutes.

____Intranasal medicine:                            (name of medicine)

This medicine is given as a small spray into the nose.  Children become drowsy in about 5-25 minutes, depending on the medicine used.

What are the side effects?

Side effects depend on the medicine used.

Most common

  • irritability
  • poor balance
  • sleeping for several hours


  • change in behavior
  • hyperactivity
  • nausea (upset stomach)
  • gas (flatulence)
  • dizziness
  • hiccups

Some sedation medicines could result in a decrease in breathing and heart rate to the point that your child could have trouble breathing. This is a rare side effect. If this were to happen, your child would require breathing support until the risk has passed.

During the time your child is sedated he or she will be watched closely. The staff will use monitoring equipment to observe heart rate, breathing, and oxygen levels.

What happens when the test is over?

Every child wakes up differently from sedation. Some children wake up quickly, some take longer, and some are irritable. Your child also may feel nauseated during recovery. Comforting your child may help him or her sleep until the sedation wears off. The nurse will let your child sleep, but will need to check the vital signs often.

Your child may be transferred to a recovery area, or return to the inpatient unit to be monitored by a nurse until he or she wakes up.

Test results may not be available right away. Routine results are usually provided by the ordering doctor or your child’s regular doctor.

How can I care for my child?

The effects of some sedation medicine can last up to 24 hours. Your child may be drowsy or irritable for 2 to 8 hours after receiving the medicine. This time may vary depending on lack of sleep, nap-time, individual sleep patterns, and type of medicine.

Your child will probably need to sleep after leaving the testing area. Letting your child sleep after sedation will help reduce irritability.

Do not give anything to eat or drink until your child is fully awake. Then offer clear liquids and advance your child to a normal diet. Clear liquids include water, apple juice, Popsicles®, Jell-O®, and Kool-Aid®Do not give hard candy, gum, milk, or juice with pulp in it, such as orange juice, soon after sedation.

Your child may be dizzy and unsteady, and must be watched closely and protected from injury. Stay with and watch your child carefully when crawling, walking, or using the bathroom. Your child should not ride a bike or riding toy until all of the effects of the medicine have worn off. Important: Use a car seat or seat belt for the ride home.  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 procedure or results
  • vomiting more than twice
  • extreme irritability
  • trouble arousing your child
  • 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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