Pediatric Sedation Unit

Before, During and After Sedation

Before sedation

Sedation requires fasting before the procedure. Our triage nurse will call you the evening before your child's study or procedure to give you specific information about fasting.

The following are some general guidelines:

Avoid brushing teeth or chewing gum as either will stimulate stomach secretions. Please be sure there are no snacks left in or around your child’s car seat!

On appointment day

The typical visit, from registration through recovery, lasts a minimum of three to four hours.

Please arrive one-and-a-half hours (90 minutes) prior to your scheduled procedure. Our team needs this time to complete the insurance registration, provide time for your child to be examined by a nurse practitioner or pediatrician, have medications ordered and double checked by the pharmacy, have the sedation pre-medication take effect, and allow for the IV catheter to be placed.

The procedure itself will last approximately 30 to 60 minutes. Interventional radiology procedures average one hour, and MRIs last approximately one hour per study ordered. Recovery will also last approximately one hour; however, each child is different, and some children wake earlier while others require longer recovery times. 

We suggest siblings stay at home to minimize distraction. If this is not possible, please bring toys, coloring books and favorite snacks. There is a cafeteria available; however, fragrant foods are discouraged on the unit as patients are fasting.

After registration, one of CHOP’s medical assistants will guide you and your child to an assigned Sedation Unit room. This staff member will measure your child’s weight and vital signs (heart rate, blood pressure, oxygen saturation and temperature).

A registered nurse (RN) will join you and will go over the sedation process with you. A nurse practitioner and/or physician will examine your child before sedation begins. They will also ask for your written consent for the procedure.

Sometimes, a Child Life Specialist will help prepare your child for his medical procedure by using age-appropriate education and supportive activities. A Child Life Specialist is a professional trained to speak with children about the procedure from CHOP’s Child Life, Education, and Creative Arts Therapy department,

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During sedation

Your child may receive an oral medication, which begins the sedation process. Then an intravenous catheter (IV) will be placed and secured in your child’s arm to give her fluids and the rest of the sedation medicine.

As your child is going to sleep, a calm approach on your part is best. Less stimulation in the room usually results in the need for less medication.

While your child’s study or procedure is underway, you may stay in the sedation unit or leave the unit to use the restroom, visit the cafeteria or check in with a clinic. Most procedures last approximately 30 to 60 minutes. Your nurse will be able to provide a time frame for you. The nurse will also ask for your cell phone number, if you have one, so that you may be updated with times as needed.

Learn more about sedation»

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After sedation

Once the procedure or diagnostic study is completed, your child will recover in his original Sedation Unit room. Recovery time is variable, but averages about 45 minutes to one hour. Your child will receive fluids through his IV to help with recovery.

Children who wake prematurely are at risk for “emergence delirium,” where they appear awake but are extremely upset and can injure themselves. This may last for several hours. For this reason, you may be asked to minimize interacting with your child to allow him to awaken slowly.

Some children can become sick to their stomach after sedation and may require medication through the IV to prevent nausea and vomiting. The IV will be removed before your child goes home.

Tips for comforting your child during recovery

What to expect after sedation

Once your child is ready to leave, the nurse will give you instructions on how to care for your child at home. The nurse will also give you a number to call for any questions or concerns that arise after you go home.

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