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Deep Sedation - Indications, Procedure, and Side Effects

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This topic explains deep sedation, its use, indications, procedure, how it is delivered, what happens during and after it, and its side effects.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Sukhdev Garg

Published At May 11, 2023
Reviewed AtFebruary 27, 2024


A sedative is used to make the patient unconscious. It is a kind of anesthesia. Sedation and general anesthesia are similar in use. It is used to sedate a patient so that the patient can sleep, and a surgical procedure can be performed on the patient.

What Is Sedation?

Sedation is providing sleep to the patient with the help of sedative medicine. Sedation is used by the doctor on a patient who requires a surgical procedure. It is given to relax the body so that no pain is felt and surgery can be performed comfortably.

What Are the Types of Sedation?

There are three types of sedation. They are:

  • Mild Sedation - Mild sedation has a mild effect on the patient, and the patient can respond to verbal commands and touch reflexes as a result of sedatives. The patient is still partially awake. It is used only for minor procedures.

  • Moderate Sedation - Moderate sedation is when the patient can purposefully respond to the command and touch. The patient is sleepy and may not remember the procedure.

  • Deep Sedation - Deep sedation makes the patient completely asleep so that the patient cannot respond to verbal commands.

What Does Deep Sedation Mean?

Deep sedation is a level of sedation in which the patient is in complete deep sleep and loses consciousness and sensations. It is caused by anesthetic medicine used during surgical procedures. The unconscious patient requires airway support and does not remember the procedure performed. Deep sedation has a similar effect to general anesthesia. Some features are unconsciousness, memory loss, muscle relaxation, and lower body reflexes. It is delivered by injection.

How Is Deep Sedation Delivered?

Sedative drugs or anesthesia drugs deliver deep sedation in different modes. They are:

  • Injecting the injection into the veins, for example, Benzodiazepine.

  • Inhaling the gasses by facial masks, for example, Nitrous oxide.

  • Orally by swallowing the medicine, for example, Diazepam.

Why Is Deep Sedation Used?

The use of deep sedation is to induce sleep in the patient so that the patient’s body gets relaxed and loses the sensation of the pain. But it also adds to the loss of memory of the procedure and airway maintenance dependent on the ventilator. It is used to heal the body after an injury or illness.

What Are the Indications for Deep Sedation?

Indications of deep sedation are:

  • Surgeries.

  • Lumbar punctures (a needle is inserted into the lower spine).

  • Bone biopsy.

  • Cardiac catheterization (a procedure to examine how well the heart is working).

  • Craniotomy (surgical removal of part of the bone from the skull to expose the brain).

  • Fracture repair.

  • Used in minor but painful procedures of bandage changes, laceration repair, and abscess drainage.

What Are the Steps for a Deep Sedation Procedure?

The steps for the deep sedation procedure are:

  • Initially, the doctor relaxes the patient.

  • The patient is made to sit or lie on the table.

  • The doctor can prepare a sedative orally, by injection method, or a facial mask.

  • In an injection mode of sedative, the doctor cleans the injection site and inserts the needle. The injection mode starts its effects within a few minutes. In contrast, oral administration needs to be taken one hour before the start of the surgery.

  • The doctor monitors the blood pressure, temperature, oxygen levels, and respiratory rate.

  • After the effect of sedatives starts, the airway or breathing is maintained by the doctor.

  • And the surgical procedure planned is performed.

What Happens During the Deep Sedation State?

The doctor provides the patient with a good quantity of medicine to keep the patient asleep and comfortable during the surgery. The blood pressure, respiratory rate, and oxygen levels will be checked. Oxygen supply is provided through the mask on the nostrils or mouth. A ventilator machine is used to maintain the airway. And the required surgical procedure is carried out.

What Happens After the Deep Sedation State?

The doctor monitors the patient's blood pressure, oxygen level, breathing rate, and temperature until the patient awakens. The patient recovering from the deep sedation may require oxygen, and they cannot stand for one to two hours after waking from deep sedation. The patient can feel tired or weak and cannot concentrate well or may have an issue of memory loss. But these symptoms are temporary and should wear off within one day.

What Are the Side Effects of Deep Sedation?

The side effects of deep sedation are:

  • Headache.

  • Nausea.

  • Vomiting.

  • Short-term memory loss.

  • Shivering.

  • Itchiness.

  • Muscle aches.

  • The feeling of heaviness.

  • Drowsiness.

What to Expect After Recovery From Deep Sedation?

It can take one to two hours for the patient to be completely awake from the deep sedation after the surgery. And takes time to stand up and cannot move without support. So, a companion is essential to look after the patient. The side effects can last for 24 hours. The patient should avoid driving for a few days and should rest at home after the procedure and avoid heavy-duty work.

What Is the Difference Between Mild Sedation and Deep Sedation?

In dentistry, mild sedation is used in minor procedures like multiple teeth fillings and root canal treatment. Mild sedation is conscious sedation with partial sleep in which the patient can reply to verbal commands, whereas deep sedation causes complete rest with unconsciousness and no verbal command response. The patient in deep sedation even goes through memory loss which is probably not present in mild sedation. Deep sedation is safely performed and is entirely a safe procedure to go. The doctor thoroughly examined the patient before going for deep sedation.

Can Deep Sedation Be Used in Dental Offices?

Deep sedation can be used in dental offices to perform a few procedures that can be painful for the patient. For example, the patient can have techniques like abscess drainage or root canal treatment which are quite painful and require cooperation from the patient to perform by a dentist. Deep sedation helps the patient to sleep and perform painful procedures.


Deep sedation is unconsciousness induced by complete sleep with a relaxed body and no sensation, which is helpful in performing some surgical procedures like drainage of abscess or fracture repair, or bone biopsy. It has similar effects to general anesthesia and uses similar modes to general anesthesia. However, it is a safe procedure with a quick recovery time causing fewer minor complications than general anesthesia.

Frequently Asked Questions


What Is an Effective Sedative for Sleep?

An effective sedative for sleep often includes medications like benzodiazepines or certain sleep aids prescribed by a healthcare provider. These medications enhance the activity of neurotransmitters, promoting relaxation and drowsiness, but should be used under professional guidance due to potential side effects and dependency.


Which Drug Acts Fastest as a Sedative?

The fastest-acting sedative drug is often considered to be Midazolam, which has a rapid onset of action when administered. Midazolam is commonly used in medical settings for procedures or surgeries due to its quick onset and short duration of action.


Is Consciousness Maintained During Deep Sedation?

Deep sedation involves a greater level of central nervous system depression compared to moderate sedation, ensuring patients remain comfortably unaware during medical procedures. Close monitoring is crucial.


Is Deep Sedation Considered Moderate or Deep?

A significantly reduced level of consciousness characterizes deep sedation compared to moderate sedation, which allows for minimal awareness of the surroundings.


What Are the Three Types of Conscious Sedation?

The three types of conscious sedation are minimal sedation, moderate sedation, and deep sedation, each varying in the level of consciousness and responsiveness. These sedation levels are crucial in medical procedures, providing a balance between patient comfort and the necessity for intervention. They enable healthcare professionals to tailor sedation to individual needs, ensuring safety and effective medical care.


Which Type of Anesthesia Characterizes Deep Sedation?

Deep sedation typically involves using anesthesia medications to induce a state of decreased consciousness while still maintaining some level of responsiveness. This advanced sedation level requires vigilant monitoring and precise drug administration to strike a delicate balance between profound sedation and patient safety.


How Safe Is Deep Sedation?

Deep sedation is generally considered safe when administered by trained healthcare professionals in controlled settings, but it carries some risks, especially if not carefully monitored.


Do You Experience Sensations During Deep Sedation?

During deep sedation, patients typically do not feel pain or have significant awareness of the procedure. This ensures a comfortable experience for patients while allowing medical procedures to be performed safely and effectively under deep sedation.


How Quickly Does the Effect of Sedation Wear Off?

The duration of sedation effects can vary depending on the specific medication used and the individual's metabolism, but they often wear off within hours after administration. Factors such as drug half-life, patient age, and overall health influence the duration of sedation effects. Rapid metabolizers may experience quicker recovery compared to others.


What Distinguishes Moderate Conscious Sedation From Deep Sedation?

Moderate conscious sedation involves a reduced level of consciousness and responsiveness compared to deep sedation, allowing patients to maintain some awareness of their surroundings.


How Is Deep Sedation Defined?

Deep sedation is defined as a state of drug-induced decreased consciousness, during which patients cannot be easily awakened but may still respond to repeated or painful stimuli.


Can You Wake Up During Deep Sedation?

It is unlikely for patients to wake up or regain full consciousness during deep sedation, as it is intended to maintain a deeper level of sedation compared to moderate sedation. Deep sedation involves a carefully controlled state where patients remain largely unresponsive, minimizing the risk of waking up or regaining consciousness during medical procedures. 


Is Deep Sedation Considered Safer Than General Anesthesia?

The safety of deep sedation compared to general anesthesia depends on various factors, including the patient's health, the procedure, and the skill of the medical team. Both have their own risks and benefits.


Do You Perceive Pain During Deep Sedation?

Patients under deep sedation typically do not perceive pain during a procedure due to their reduced level of consciousness and responsiveness. The diminished awareness and responsiveness during deep sedation create a state where patients are unlikely to perceive pain, enhancing the procedural experience and ensuring comfort.
Dr. Sukhdev Garg
Dr. Sukhdev Garg



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