What Is Sedation?

Sedation services at the University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children’s Hospital are a very safe way to reduce fear and anxiety that our patients may experience during procedures. Sedation is used to help many children through various tests and procedures by giving medicine to help relax and remain still. If the procedure is painful, medicine to relieve pain may also be given. When children are sedated, they appear to be sleeping.

Pediatric sedation is available in inpatient and outpatient settings. Sedation may be appropriate if your child needs diagnostic or therapeutic tests or treatments including:

  • MRI scans
  • CT scans
  • Interventional radiology procedures
  • Nuclear medicine testing
  • Endoscopy
  • Colonoscopy
  • Central line placement
  • Dialysis/pheresis catheter placement
  • Minor surgery
  • Peripherally inserted central catheter (PICC line) placement
  • Bone marrow aspiration/biopsy
  • Lumbar puncture
  • Liver or renal biopsy
  • Radiation oncology
  • Eye exams with laser therapy
  • Echocardiography

Our family-centered sedation services are tailored to meet your child's needs before, during and after his or her procedure.

Award-Winning Pediatric Sedation Program

As a designated Center of Excellence in Pediatric Sedation by the Society for Pediatric Sedation, Comer Children's is committed to safe and effective procedural sedation. Our experts apply current best practices in a patient- and family-centered environment with continual self-review, evaluation and changes aimed at achieving the highest quality of care with efficient use of limited health care resources.

Specializing in Pediatric Sedation

The sedation team is a group of critical care doctors and nurses who work together to deliver sedation medication and safely monitor your child if sedation is needed for a test or procedure. This team will also assist with any IV access or blood draws that may be needed. Staffed exclusively by specialists in pediatric critical care medicine, Comer Children's pediatric sedation service is a Platinum Institutional Member of the Society for Pediatric Sedation (SPS), with access to the Pediatric Sedation Research Consortium. The SPS is an international leader in the advancement of pediatric sedation.

SPS (Society for Pediatric Sedation) Center of Excellence Logo

A child life specialist will be available to provide preparation for your child's test or procedure and distraction to minimize anxiety. If you would like child life services during your visit, please ask our staff to request a specialist.

What to Expect

We are proud to offer timely and efficient appointments, usually within three days of request. After you schedule an appointment, you will receive a phone call to complete sedation screening, answer questions and provide fasting instructions for your child. Before each procedure or sedation service, a team of specialists works with the patient's family to determine the appropriate plan for the patient's sedation.

Can my child eat before the procedure?

Having an empty stomach before sedation is very important for your child's safety. Your child's appointment will be rescheduled if you have not followed the specified restrictions. A sedation nurse the evening before your appointment to be given instructions regarding food and drink restrictions. Restrictions to your child's diet before a sedated procedure are as follows:

6 Hours Before Procedure

  • Stop all solid foods
  • Stop all liquids you cannot see through (this includes milk and formula)

4 Hours Before Procedure

  • Stop breast milk

2 Hours Before Procedure

  • Stop all clear liquids (including water, apple juice or Pedialyte)

What should my child wear?

Dress your child in comfortable clothing and try to avoid metal snaps, buttons, zippers and glitter/gem designs. Girls should not wear eye make‐up or mascara. These materials can interfere with some procedures performed under sedation. If necessary, your child will be asked to change into a hospital gown prior to the procedure.

During a procedure, critical care specialists can provide intravenous medications to maintain a level of sedation appropriate for your child’s test or treatment. The state-of-the-art monitoring capabilities at Comer Children's ensure that sedation is administered safely and effectively.

Each patient's team of specialists includes: a pediatric critical care physician, a nurse who specializes in intensive care and sedation, and a child life specialist who teaches and distracts patients using developmentally appropriate play. We also have readily available interpreter services.

Upon arrival, you will check in at the reception desk. The nurses will call you from the waiting room when your child is ready to be seen. You are welcome to bring a favorite toy or activity to provide comfort throughout your child's appointment. You can remain with your child until he/she is asleep from the sedation medication. Your child will become sleepy within approximately 15 minutes.

Prior to giving the sedation medication, the sedation team will:

  • Weigh your child on a scale
  • Ask questions regarding your child's medical history
  • Place special stickers on your child's chest and finger to safely monitor heart rate and oxygen level
  • Take your child's blood pressure on either the arm or leg

The sedation team will use an IV to give your child sedation medication. The IV will be placed using the following steps:

  • A stretchy rubber band (called a tourniquet) will be tied around your child's arm to help the nurses look for a vein. This rubber band will feel tight on your child's arm
  • A soft, wet sponge to clean the skin
  • Special "freezy" spray. This spray feels very cold but helps make the pinch easier
  • Buzzy vibrating distraction may be available to help alleviate pain. The cold spray and/or vibrations will help make this easier and the needle will come out right away
  • A small needle to put a tiny tube into your vein. Tape will hold the small plastic tube in place after the needle comes out

Your child can choose to watch or look away during the IV. Some kids like to talk with someone or look at a special toy for distraction.

After your child's procedure, his or her medical team will provide direction about recovery. Patients can typically eat their favorite foods following recovery from sedation and return to normal activities within two to four hours of a procedure. Most children can attend school the next day.

When your child wakes up he/she will be offered juice and crackers/cookies. If your child has unique diet restrictions, please feel free to bring snacks and a drink with you. Your child will be required to eat and drink a small amount and walk a short distance prior to leaving. Most children are sleepy and not steady on their feet for the rest of the day. Your child will require adult supervision and should not return to school or extracurricular activities until the following day.

Comer Children's will provide a radiology report within three business days of your child's procedure and a CD copy of your child's MRI upon request.

Research shows that children who are prepared in advance are less anxious and better able to cooperate during medical exams and procedures. You can help your child feel prepared by answering questions using clear and honest answers based on the detail provided here. You know your child best and can use this information as a guideline when preparing him/her.

  • Children 2 Years Old: Prepare him/her on the way to the appointment
  • Children 3-5 Years Old: Prepare him/her the day before the appointment
  • Children 6-10 Years Old: Prepare him/her a few days before your appointment
  • Children 11 and Older: Prepare him/her a week or two in advance

If your child has special health needs, please let us know so we can better plan for your visit. If he/she is followed by a special doctor for the lungs, heart, kidneys, ear, nose and throat (ENT) or has diabetes, please contact us at 773‐834‐8585. We will make special arrangements for him/her.

Frequently Asked Questions about Pediatric Sedation

This Q&A is designed to give you answers to common questions people have about pediatric sedation and procedures. If you do not find answers to your questions regarding your child's sedation or for more information about any of the services, please call us at 773-834-8585.

The sedation team works hand in hand with your child’s ordering physician to assure that he or she is receiving the proper sedation for the exam or procedure.

The sedation team is made up of pediatric critical care fellowship trained and board certified physicians. Our pediatric critical care nurses are experts in pediatric sedation, an expertise maintained through an extensive sedation competency process.

There is a critical care physician overseeing your child’s care throughout their entire visit to pediatric sedation. Additionally, a critical care nurse will be with your child at all times during sedation induction, throughout the procedure or radiographic scan and recovery process. The nurse will be assessing your child and documenting vital signs every five minutes.

The medications used for sedation will relieve anxiety and decrease the discomfort of the procedure to obtain the best examination possible. The medication is tailored for your child’s age, weight, underlying illness or suspected illness and their previous sedation experience. Your child will be closely monitored before, during and after sedation by the team.

You will receive a call from a sedation nurse the night before your child’s sedation to confirm the appointment and to review the diet instructions.

  • Your child should not have food, formula or milk products six hours prior your appointment.
  • Your child should not have breast milk four hours prior to your appointment.
  • You child can have clear liquids up to two hours prior to your appointment. Clear liquids include water, apple juice, Gatorade, Sprite or 7-up.
  • Your child should take all medications as regularly scheduled. Please give with a sip of water or clear fluids.

Your child should take all medications as regularly scheduled prior to their sedation appointment. A sedation nurse will call you the night before your child’s planned sedation. If you have any questions please bring them to his or her attention at that time.


  • Your child might be groggy or sleepy for up to six hours. It is best to plan quiet activities, such as reading books, watching TV or listening to soothing music.
  • Your child should not do anything that requires concentration or coordination. Please, no bike riding, rollerblading, swimming or studying.
  • Older patients should not drive a car or operate machinery for at least 24 hours.


  • Return to your child’s regular diet when he or she feels ready.
  • You may go back to breastfeeding after the test.
  • Do not give your child a heavy meal for the next few hours. Some children may have a mildly upset stomach. Please encourage them to drink fluids.

Your child can eat any of their favorite foods following recovery of sedation. Your child will be able to return to normal activities within two to four hours of his or her procedure. Most children can return to school the next day.

UChicago Medicine employee helping a patient check in

Contact Us

For more information about sedation services or procedures:

Phone: 773-834-8585

Fax: 773-834-0076

Email: peds.sedation@uchospitals.edu