Q: My doctor wants me to undergo a procedure using conscious sedation. Does that mean I’ll be awake the whole time?
According to the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists, conscious sedation is an altered state of consciousness that minimizes pain and discomfort using sedatives and pain relievers. Most patients are able to speak and to respond to instructions throughout the procedure, and are able to tell the doctors and nurses if they are feeling pain or discomfort. Some people will fall asleep during their procedure but are easily awoken.
However, conscious sedation also generally results in a brief period of amnesia, so you’re unlikely to remember any of the procedure.
This form of sedation is thought to be safer than general anesthesia, which results in complete unconsciousness, but also comes with some risks.
Better sedatives and improved technology is allowing more procedures — both medical and dental — to be done under conscious sedation, including things like breast biopsies, vasectomies, colonoscopies and dental surgery.
The sedation generally wears off quickly, although patients shouldn’t drive or operate dangerous equipment for 24 hours. Side effects can include headache, nausea or vomiting.
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