Emergency Care Institute Patient Fact Sheet

Published on 20 Jul 2022 Printed on 9 Feb 2023

Procedural sedation

This fact sheet is for people who have presented to the emergency department and need procedural sedation.

This fact sheet provides general information. If you have specific concerns, speak to your healthcare professional for further information and advice.

What is procedural sedation?

Procedural sedation is when you are given strong drugs to help you tolerate procedures by making you feel more relaxed and sleepier.

This can be used in the emergency department for procedures such as straightening a broken wrist or a dislocated shoulder joint.

These drugs may be given as a:

  • liquid
  • gas that you breathe
  • as a medication through a cannula (drip) placed in a vein.

A doctor or nurse will monitor you throughout the procedure.

Home care

After you have had procedural sedation you should:

  • stay with friends or family for the next 24 hours
  • avoid alcoholic drinks for 24 hours
  • not make any important decisions, such as signing contracts, commitments or major purchases for the next 24 hours
  • not undertake any activity that requires you to be alert or coordinated for the next 24 hours - this includes driving, operating heavy machinery or power tools, cooking, climbing a ladder or riding a bicycle
  • use pain medications provided by the hospital, if needed, or simple over-the-counter pain killers e.g. paracetamol or ibuprofen
  • stick to fluids if you feel sick or vomit, until you feel you can eat solid food. If this persists, contact your doctor or return to the emergency department.

When can I go home?

You should be safe to go home:

  • once the sedation has worn off
  • you are less sleepy
  • you can safely get up and walk around
  • the doctors and nurses have checked you are stable.

This time can vary from patient to patient and may depend on the medications used.

What to expect

Please seek urgent medical advice if you develop any of the following symptoms:

  • Severe new cough or wheezing
  • Fever or new aches and pains
  • Increased sleepiness and not feeling back to your normal self

Seeking help

In a medical emergency call an ambulance – dial triple zero (000). If you have any concerns, see your local doctor or healthcare professional. If this is not possible return to the emergency department or urgent care centre.

For more information

Ask your GP or healthcare professional. You can also call healthdirect 24 hours a day on 1800 022 222 or visit healthdirect.gov.au.

Evidence informed Based on rapid evidence check of grey literature and, where there is no research, based on clinical expert consensus.
Collaboration Developed in collaboration with the Agency for Clinical Innovation (ACI) Emergency Care Institute members and the ACI's Anaesthesia and Perioperative Care Network.
Currency Due for review: July 2027.
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