Sedation is a process commonly used in the medical field to reduce a patient’s pain, irritability and agitation during medical procedures like colonoscopy. In addition to being an important component of any colon screening procedure, sedation practices are used in minor surgeries and medical procedures like endoscopies, vasectomies and in many cosmetic dentistry operations.
Sedation typically involves an injection (with intravenous or IV), inhalation (of nitrous oxide or “laughing gas”) or consumption (oral) of a sedative drug which numbs the patient, allowing certain invasive procedures to occur without causing too much discomfort for the patient. Method selection usually is left to the doctor’s discretion.
Patients who undergo sedation sometimes report having trouble breathing, but with a medical expert nearby, monitoring the patient’s progress, patients usually have nothing to worry about. Trained specialists are always on hand during a sedated operation should any emergencies occur.
Depending on the level of sedation, patient may feel anything from slightly numb to completely unconscious. While some operations require the patient to be semi-responsive to pain or voice stimulation, others may temporarily desensitize the whole body, preventing it from feeling pain at all for the duration of the procedure. Under-sedation (not being sedated enough) and over-sedation (being too sedated) during an operation or procedure is avoided to prevent pain and/or adverse side effects to the patient. For major surgeries, a general anesthesia may be used that makes the patient unresponsive to even highly painful stimulants. Recent press has given a lot of concern to the use of the drug propofol. This drug, when used in the right situations under appropriate monitoring by a trained anesthesiologist is safe for use in cases of deep sedation and is often employed for patients who cannot tolerate standard monitored sedation techniques.
In addition to practicing traditional bowel prep methods, a patient must also be sedated before a colonoscopy procedure can effectively take place. During the colonoscopy, a colonoscope is inserted into the patient’s colon, causing the bowel wall to stretch and giving the examining doctor a clear view of colorectal tissue within. The procedure can last up to 1 hour long. Without sedation, this process can be painful.
Most patients do not remember the colonoscopy procedure as a result of being sedated. While they may feel sore in their colorectal and abdominal areas, sedation has the common side effect of blurring or fading the memory of a colonoscopy procedure. Since it can take a patient several hours to recover from sedation and return to normal activities, colonoscopy patients must also be accompanied by a family member or friend who can drive them home after the procedure is over. Driving under the influence of sedative drugs is extremely dangerous and is not permitted in patients of any age.
If you have any concerns regarding the sedation drugs used for colonoscopy, please contact one of our knowledgeable colonoscopy specialists.