We have created a pediatric sedation unit (PSU) in response to the need for uniform, safe, and appropriately monitored sedation and/or analgesia for children undergoing invasive and noninvasive studies or procedures in a large tertiary care medical center. The operational characteristics of the PSU are described in this report, as is our clinical experience in the first 8 months of operation.


A retrospective review of quality assurance data was performed. These data included patient demographics and chronic medical diagnoses, procedure, or study performed; sedative or analgesic medication given; complications (defined prospectively); and sedation and monitoring time. Patient-specific medical records related to the procedure and sedation were reviewed if a complication was noted in the quality assurance data.


Briefly, the PSU was staffed with an intensivist and pediatric intensive care unit nurses. Patients were admitted to the PSU and assessed medically for risk factors during sedation. Continuous heart rate, respiratory rate, and pulse oximetry monitoring were used, and blood pressure was determined every 5 minutes. After sedation and stabilization, with monitoring continued, the patient was transported to the site to undergo the procedure or study. The pediatric intensive care unit nurse remained with the patient at all times. All necessary emergency equipment was transported with the patient. After the procedure or study was completed, the patient was returned to the PSU for recovery to predetermined parameters.

We were able to analyze 458 episodes of sedation for this review. Procedures and studies included radiologic examinations, cardiac catheterization, orthopedic manipulations, solid organ and bone marrow biopsy, gastrointestinal endoscopy, bronchoscopy, evoked potential measurements, and others. Patients were 2 weeks to 32 years of age. The average time from initiation of sedation to last dose of medication administered was 84 minutes. The average time from initiation of sedation to full recovery was 120 minutes. Sedative and analgesia medications use was not standardized; however, the majority of children needing sedation received propofol or midazolam. For patients requiring analgesia, ketamine or fentanyl was added. In 79 of 458 (12%) sedation episodes, complications were documented. Mild hypotension (4.4%), pulse oximetry <93% (2.6%), apnea (1.5%), and transient airway obstruction (1.3%) were the most common complications noted. Cancellation of 11 (2.4%) procedures was attributable to complications. No long-term morbidity or mortality was seen.


Many children require sedation or analgesia during procedures or studies. Safe sedation is best ensured by appropriate presedation risk assessment and with monitoring by a care provider trained in resuscitative measures who is not involved in performing the procedure itself. Uniformity of care in a large institution is a standard met by the creation of a centralized service, with active input from the department of anesthesiology. We present the PSU as a model for achieving these goals.

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