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Frequently Asked Questions

  • Why conscious sedation?
    The phrase conscious sedation was coined by the American Dental Association, referring to a technique used to make patients comfortable during the operation. Conscious sedation is probably the fastest growing area in anaesthesia care and has become a very effective and viable alternative to general anaesthesia for many surgical procedures, e.g., dental procedures, plastic and reconstructive surgery, dermatology, endoscopies, bronchoscopies, and liver and renal biopsies. You will come in on the day of surgery and leave the same day usually within one hour of the operation. In addition, there is a significantly lower incidence of side effects with conscious sedation (including low incidence of nausea and vomiting, headaches, sore throats, muscle aches, and pain), and the cost for conscious sedation is much lower compared to general anaesthesia.
  • What is conscious sedation?
    The purpose of sedation is to make you comfortable, totally relaxed and safe during a procedure. Administration of the sedatives and analgesia results in you becoming drowsy and sleepy, pain-free, and probably amnesic such that you will have very little recollection of the procedure. If required, communication is possible during the operation, for even though you are completely relaxed and unconcerned, you are not completely unconscious at any point in time. Your vital signs, e.g., blood pressure, breathing, pulse rate, etc. are monitored throughout the procedure to ensure your safety, and the sedationist will remain with you all the time. Your sedation is achieved with intravenous agents (e.g. benzodiazepines, opiates, other sedative/anaesthetics) administered into a vein. Recovery after sedation is much faster than with general anaesthesia. The same applies for the side effect profile, e.g. nausea and vomiting, headache, muscle pain and sore throat – in fact very few patients experience any side effects at all. For these reasons, patient satisfaction is very high after conscious sedation. Our own 4-year survey of the experiences and satisfaction of patients who had sedation shows that 98.2% of patients would recommend sedation to others for the same surgery that they underwent.
  • Are there different levels of sedation?
    There are three different levels of sedation that are defined and recognized internationally. The three sedation levels recognized in the UK today include: Minimal Sedation (or Anxiolysis): This is often referred to as changing the mood of the patient whereby the patient is calmed, responsive to verbal commands, and unconcerned about the procedure. Moderate Sedation or Conscious Sedation: This is where the patient is more deeply sedated, becomes drowsy and sleepy (and may even sleep intermittently), is responsive to verbal commands, and calm. Deep Sedation: At this level of sedation patients may become unconscious. This level is not allowed in the UK for sedation outside the operating room.
  • How does sedation differ from general anaesthesia?
    The main differences between conscious sedation and general anaesthesia are the level of consciousness, safety, side effects, and cost. Level of consciousness: With conscious sedation, the patient is drowsy, comfortable, sleepy and relaxed, but remains conscious. Patients can be roused by verbal communication if necessary. With general anaesthesia, the patient is completely unresponsive and cannot be roused by verbal communication. Safety: With conscious sedation the required dose of a drug is low and the patient is still in control of major reflex functions such as breathing. With general anaesthesia, the higher doses of drugs renders the patient unconscious, who then loses these reflexes which must be, in turn, maintained artificially. Higher doses of drugs administered with general anaesthesia are associated with higher risks. Side effects: Due to the lower dose of sedative/anaesthetics the frequency of side effects is minimal when compared to general anaesthesia. Cost: The fact that the recovery period of sedation is much quicker than with general anaesthesia, combined with the fact that sedation does not require hospital settings, means that the cost of sedation is far lower than that for general anaesthesia. General anaesthesia can only be done inside a hospital in an operating theatre.
  • What is a sedation provider?
    The operator sedation practitioner: Here the surgeon administers the sedation and performs the surgical procedure. Dedicated staff will be part of the team and help him/her to monitor the patient. The dedicated sedation practitioner: Here a dedicated sedationist administers the sedation while the surgeon does the surgery. The sedation practitioner looks after the wellbeing of the patient from a sedation perspective, which allows the surgeon to focus on the operative procedure. This is how we at Sedation Solutions work. The provision of sedation is closely regulated to the highest professional and ethical standards. All sedation team members and practitioners must have appropriate training in the administration of conscious sedation including monitoring, management, and care of the patient while under sedation. It is also mandatory that sedation practitioners attend regular training updates in knowledge and skills.
  • Is conscious sedation an option for all patients?
    As with any anaesthetic, the suitability of conscious sedation is determined by the patient’s age, health and need, as well as by the procedure being performed. Procedures that do not need general anaesthetic may be suitable for sedation, such as: Dental procedures Minor surgery such as cosmetics, urology, infertility, etc. Routine investigations such as biopsies or endoscopies Routine interventions such as interventional cardiology or radiology Very anxious patients – sedation calms the patient and overcomes their fear and anxiety Patients who have had a previous traumatic experience – sedation makes it possible to deal with the post-traumatic stress of the patient relating to medical or dental procedures Uncomfortable procedures – sedation relaxes, dissociates and helps comfort the patient More invasive, complex and prolonged procedures – sedation ensures the patient can remain still yet comfortable for long periods of time Procedures in adults that may not be particularly painful, but require them to be very still during the surgery From a medical perspective, adults who are healthy or have controlled medical conditions (e.g., hypertension, diabetes, asthma), qualify for sedation. Patients with significant or uncontrolled medical conditions (e.g., severe heart disease, morbid obesity, etc.) need to be assessed on a case-by-case basis as to their suitability for sedation, where it may be an option to perform the procedure within a hospital setting. Conscious sedation should thus always be evaluated with respect to other available options, including local anaesthesia and/or regional anaesthesia, local anaesthesia with behavioural management techniques, general anaesthesia and conscious sedation itself. Patients should always be involved in the decision-making after receiving an explanation of the available options.
  • What can I eat or drink before sedation?
    All patients will receive pre- and post-sedation instructions. The general guidelines are as follows. See that you follow these guidelines, otherwise, your operation may have to be cancelled: No solid food for six (6) hours prior to the procedure. All patients may have clear liquids until two (2) hours before the procedure. Diabetic patients will get special instructions as far as food intake is concerned.
  • Will I be uncomfortable or feel any pain under sedation?
    Even though you are not completely asleep, you will be drowsy, relaxed and pain-free during the procedure. The sedative drugs combined with analgesics and local anaesthesia ensures that you will have no pain. The drugs will also contribute towards a pain-free period after the operation.
  • How long does it take to recover after the operation and how soon can I go home?
    The recovery time depends on the drugs used, the patient’s individual response to the drugs, and the time spent under sedation. The drugs and doses that are used for sedation have a rapid onset and offset. After the administration of the sedative drugs is stopped, recovery is swift and in most cases less than about 30 minutes, which is the time that you will need to remain at the clinic before being allowed to go home with your escort. The sedation practitioner will carefully monitor you to ensure that you are fit for discharge. Thereafter you may remain drowsy for a few hours and will be given specific written and verbal instructions on what to do.
  • Are there any side effects to sedation?
    As with any medication, the use of sedative anaesthetic agents can result in side effects. However, the incidence of side effects with sedation are very rare and include unintended loss of consciousness, drowsiness, dizziness, shivering (4%), headaches (4%), and post-sedation nausea and vomiting (0.7%).
  • How should I spend my time recovering after the sedation?
    You will not be allowed to drive yourself home, and you will not be able to leave the clinic or facility if there is not a responsible adult who can drive you home and oversee your post-operative recovery period. You should remain in the company of a responsible adult for 12 hours following the procedure. Elimination of the sedative agents from your body can take up to 24 hours. It is important during this time to rest and recover from the procedure. Therefore, even if you feel adequately recovered, you must refrain to do the following for 24 hours: Drive a vehicle (insurance will be void) Cook or use electrical implements Operate any machinery Sign important documents, cheques, etc. Look after children Ride a bicycle, etc. Make important decisions, etc. Consume alcohol, sleeping tablets, tobacco, or abuse drugs Perform other complicated tasks or responsibilities
  • Does my medical insurance pay for the sedation?
    You should contact your medical insurance before the operation to get authorization and information. Medical insurance is increasingly interested in sedation services because of the many advantages including effectiveness, safety, cost savings, and convenience.
  • Who is qualified to provide sedation?
    Our Sedationists have all completed undergraduate medical studies and appropriate postgraduate training and qualification in anaesthetics and/or sedation. Advanced sedation may only be done by those trained and experienced in how to evaluate and assess the patient, administer the sedative drugs, monitor the patient, and deal with any side effects or situations that may arise. This remains a requirement of all international and UK guidelines. In addition, practitioners undergo yearly postgraduate training and appraisals to ensure fitness to practice. According to the American Society of Anaesthesiologists Task Force on Sedation and Analgesia, sedation can be provided by anaesthesiologists as well as non-anaesthesiologists who are appropriately qualified. There are thus three main groups of sedation providers: Professional sedation practitioners are medically qualified practitioners with extensive postgraduate certification such as a diploma, Masters qualification etc, training and experience in conscious sedation. They are usually full time in sedation practice in surgeries, clinics, hospitals, and often travel between facilities to administer sedations. Operator-sedationists are practitioners from different sub-specialities (e.g., dentists, radiologists, gastroenterologists) who, in addition to performing the procedure, also administer the sedation. Anaesthetists are usually qualified anaesthetists/consultants who also administer sedation inside hospitals. They do not do sedation full-time and represent a smaller group than those above.
  • Where can conscious sedation be administered?
    Conscious sedation can be done in hospitals as well as outside a hospital or operating theatre setting, including: Dental or medical surgeries or clinics Approved facilities with necessary monitoring and emergency equipment and appropriately trained staff Conscious sedation should only be performed in an environment where the facilities, personnel, equipment and drugs required to administer, monitor and manage any complication are immediately available and provided with the same level of care as in the hospital environment.
  • Am I allowed to take my herbal drugs before sedation?
    Many patients are on herbal drugs for different reasons. They would rarely interfere or cause serious complications with conscious sedation. However, the sedation practitioner must know which herbal medication you may be taking. Herbal drugs can influence sedation by interacting with the sedative drugs. Some herbal drugs have a sedative effect and can potentiate the effect of the sedative drugs; some interfere in other ways, such as increasing the bleeding tendency. It is therefore obviously important that you let your sedationist know if you are taking herbal medications, and if possible, consider stopping them a week or two before the procedure
  • What are my choices in terms of anaesthesia when it comes to treatment?
    Not to have the treatment Have the treatment with local anaesthesia only Have the treatment under conscious sedation and local anaesthesia at the surgery Have general anaesthesia in a hospital environment
  • What are the risks and advantages of sedation?
    Very rarely you may experience: Discomfort or bruising at the site of injection. Vein irritation (phlebitis), which can last a week and can be painful. This rarely happens when an elbow vein is used. Allergic reaction to any of the drugs used. Allergic reactions to the sedative drugs are extremely rare. Nausea and vomiting, although very uncommon, may occur. Conscious sedation is a very safe procedure; however, the very rare complications should be mentioned: depressed respiration (slowing or stopped breathing), brain damage, stroke, heart attack or even a fatal outcome. The information that you give us on your medical history form will assist us in deciding whether you might be at risk to any known complications. Your sedationist is highly experienced in avoiding complications and is trained to deal with unexpected problems.
  • If I am conscious during the sedation, why shall I not remember what has happened?
    Conscious sedation induces a state of deep relaxation. In over 90% of people, the drugs used for conscious sedation produce either partial or full memory loss (amnesia) for the period when the drug first kicks in until it wears off. As a result, time will appear to pass very quickly. Consequently, people who remember nothing at all frequently report that they were “asleep” during the procedure.
  • Is it necessary to have local anaesthetic if I have conscious sedation?
    The conscious sedation drugs are given to relax you whilst the local anaesthetic drugs will take away the pain. The local anaesthetic will be administered after the sedation has taken effect, and usually, patients do not remember the local anaesthetic injections.
  • Local anaesthetics don't work well on me. Will sedation help?
    Under sedation, you feel less pain. The surgeon can therefore administer local anaesthetic more effectively. You will not experience pain while you are sedated.
  • Will the sedationist be present at all times?
    Yes, the sedationist will be by your side all the time as the sedation drugs are administered continuously throughout the surgery. Additionally, your pulse, oxygen levels and blood pressure are constantly monitored and recorded to ensure your wellbeing.
  • What drugs are used? Are there different types of intravenous sedation?
    The most used drug for conscious sedation is Midazolam, which belongs to the same family of drugs as Valium. However, to make the injections in the mouth almost painless and to produce a better quality of sedation, your sedationist may choose to add an opiate and/or Propofol or other drugs in controlled and titrated doses. Propofol allows for a much faster recovery but needs a dedicated trained sedationist to be present throughout the procedure.
  • Will someone need to accompany me? What happens if I do not have anyone?
    To comply with guidelines and for your safety, we must insist that you have a responsible adult to take you home after your appointment, preferably by car or taxi. If you have no escort on the day of the sedation, your appointment may be cancelled and you will be charged in full.
  • How long will I be under conscious sedation?
    The length of your appointment will depend upon the procedure. There will be a recovery period of 20 – 30 minutes before you are discharged into the care of your escort. The sedative effect of the drugs will gradually wear off during the day. Most patients are well enough to return to their normal activities within 24 hours depending on the nature of their work.
  • Why am I having sedation?
    Conscious sedation is useful for patients who have a fear or anxiety about having minor surgical or dental treatment. Sometimes, the dentist or surgeon may request the sedation to make the treatment more comfortable for you or to create the optimal working conditions. In dentistry, sedation is particularly useful for patients with a strong gag reflex, small mouth opening or those individuals with a low tolerance to pain. It is also well suited for patients who fear the administration of local anaesthetic injections.
  • Does the medication I am taking interfere with sedation?
    You must advise the sedation practitioner of all the medication you are taking so that this can be factored into your assessment and administration of the sedation. You should continue to take your medications as usual, unless advised otherwise by the sedationist. Antihypertensive (high blood pressure) medications: continue taking these as usual. Asthma medications: continue taking these as usual and bring your inhalers with you. Diabetes medications: it is important that the sedation practitioner guides you here since it may be that you should have a meal, and not take oral anti-diabetic drugs the morning of the operation. You are encouraged to monitor your blood glucose levels before the sedation, and bring these with you to the surgery. Antidepressants: an increasing number of patients are nowadays on antidepressants not only for the treatment of depression but also to treat pain. It is of utmost importance that you inform the sedation practitioner of any antidepressants you may be taking since certain classes of antidepressants can interact with the sedative agents, and it may be required that you stop these for a few days before the procedure.
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