Side Effects of Sedation


Sedation is a medical practice used to reduce anxiety and dull consciousness in patients. It is a useful tool that can make it easier for a doctor to perform a procedure and also make the procedure easier for a patient to endure. Even when administered by an experienced professional, sedation can cause side effects.

The Facts

Sedative drugs work to depress the central nervous system, but do not prevent or block sensations of pain. Sedation can be used alone, as with conscious sedation in dentistry, to calm a nervous patient who still needs to be able to talk and interact with the doctor. It can also be used in combination with anesthesia to relax a patient and block pain from a procedure. Just as with anesthesia, there is a risk of side effects if your doctor uses sedation for your procedure.

Allergic Reactions

Some side effects of sedation are caused by allergic reactions to the sedative that is used. An allergic reaction can result is suppression of your rate of breathing, which puts you at risk for not getting enough oxygen to your brain. Your blood pressure can also drop below safe levels. In severe cases, the reaction can be severe enough to be fatal. An allergic reaction might cause the effects of sedation to linger longer than normal.

Other Effects

The other side effects of sedation depend on the sedative your doctor gives you. Benzodiazepines can cause amnesia for the time surrounding their administration. Nitrous oxide can cause nausea and vomiting. Ketamine can cause nausea as well as vivid hallucinations that are often frightening. Propofol can result in marked depression of your breathing rate. Some side effects are rare but serious. Halothane can trigger inflammatory hepatitis.


Treatment of the side effects of sedation depends on the effect and its severity. For depressed breathing, medical staff can intervene and facilitate your breathing until the drug has cleared your system and you can breathe on your own. Some sedatives have antidotes. For benzodiazepines, a drug called flumazenil will counteract their effects. The side effects of sedation will fade as your body metabolizes the drug and clears it from your system.


Because of the variety of different sedatives available, your doctor will need to decide which one best suits your needs. The sedative that works for one person for a specific procedure might not work for you. You should discuss any drug allergies you have before undergoing a procedure. Sedation should only be performed by a qualified medical professional experienced in working with the drug and who understands its potential side effects.

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