Intravenous (IV) Sedation Uses and Benefits

Intravenous (IV) sedation is a type of anesthesia given through a tube placed in a vein. It helps you relax, prevents you from feeling pain, and is mainly used for minor medical procedures that don't require deeper general anesthesia.

IV sedation is also known as monitored anesthesia care (MAC), conscious sedation, or twilight sleep.

This article will discuss the types of IV anesthesia, when they are used, and what you should know if you are getting ready to have a procedure that requires you to receive anesthesia.

Nurse holding an IV line
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Levels of Sedation

There are different levels of sedation during monitored anesthesia care. Depending on the surgical procedure, the amount of anesthesia used can range from a minimal amount to enough to produce a deep sleep. You may or may not be able to move around. Patients can often breathe on their own, so intubation (placing a tube into the windpipe) is not needed. Your memory of the procedure may vary depending on the amount of sedation and medications used.

The American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) recognizes three basic levels of sedation, which are:

  • Minimal: Relaxed but awake and able to follow some directions
  • Moderate: Drowsy to sleepy and may not remember some or all of the procedure
  • Deep: Asleep during most of the procedure and likely remember very little

Your provider should explain the planned level of sedation before the start of the procedure.

Sedation vs. Analgesia

The term "sedation" means being relaxed and sleepy. "Analgesia" is the medical term for pain relief. Some IV anesthesia medications provide both, but ask your healthcare provider about what to expect with the procedure you're undergoing.


Using IV sedation during plastic surgery and other procedures has many possible benefits, including:

  • Fast acting
  • Rapid recovery
  • Customizable dose
  • Fewer changes in vital signs
  • Fewer side effects
  • Lower risks than general anesthesia
  • Ability of the patient to cooperate
  • Avoiding use of a breathing tube


All types of anesthesia carry some level of risk. IV sedation risks can include:

  • Oversedation
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Drowsiness
  • Low drive to breathe
  • Respiratory compromise (needing a breathing tube)
  • Aspiration pneumonia (food or drink gets breathed into the airways or lungs)
  • Increased pain

Before IV Sedation

Before a procedure with IV sedation, you should tell your healthcare provider about allergies or medical conditions you have. You should also inform the provider of any medications you are taking and any prior surgeries you've had and the type of anesthesia used.

Typically, you will be evaluated by a healthcare provider trained in anesthesia before the procedure.

You may wish to ask whether an anesthesiologist or a nurse anesthetist will be administering anesthesia. The medical backgrounds and medical training are different for these two types of healthcare professionals.

You may need to arrange for a responsible adult to drive you to and from the facility for the procedure.

Follow any instructions provided to you prior to your procedure, including restrictions on food and drink. Avoid drinking alcohol the day before or the day of your procedure as it can affect how anesthesia performs.

It's important to stop smoking before surgery to reduce the risk of slow healing after the procedure. Following your surgery, you will be given a list of instructions to follow as well as symptoms that should alert you to call your doctor.

After IV Sedation

Typically, you will feel groggy after your procedure and may have a slight headache and nausea. During the recovery process, your nurse will monitor your vital signs, including blood pressure, pulse, and oxygen levels. You usually will be observed for one to two hours after the procedure before you are able to return home with your driver.


Intravenous sedation (IV sedation) offers a safe alternative to general anesthesia for minor surgical procedures. It can provide sedation ranging from slight (relaxed and mildly sleepy) to deep sleep. Your medical team will help you to understand what kind of anesthesia you will likely need and what to expect.

A Word From Verywell

Certainly, all forms of anesthesia have risks, and it's important to talk to your surgeon and anesthesiologist about any medical conditions you may have. It is helpful to ask about care after the procedure and to follow the instructions you receive.

Quitting smoking is probably the number one action anyone who smokes can do both to increase the safety of anesthesia and the healing from any surgical procedure.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How much does IV sedation cost?

    The price for IV sedation will vary, depending on where your procedure is performed. Your surgeon's staff will be able to discuss with you how much your procedure will cost, including the anesthesia.

  • What drugs are used during IV sedation?

    There is no single drug used during IV sedation. The anesthesiologist (the doctor who administers anesthesia) will use a combination of drugs to relax your body, relieve your pain, and help you not remember the procedure.

  • What does IV sedation feel like?

    Most people will feel very relaxed at the start of IV sedation as the medicines begin to take effect. Many people remember the feeling of relaxation and waking up after the procedure is over but nothing in between.

  • How quickly does IV sedation begin to work?

    Medicines administered via the bloodstream begin to take effect quickly, often within minutes.

  • How long should I wait to eat after IV sedation?

    Your healthcare provider will give you instructions to help with your recovery, including when you can resume eating and drinking. Depending on the level of sedation used, and which drugs you were given, you may be advised to begin with liquids before moving to solid foods.

  • Are you awake during IV sedation?

    It depends. There are different levels of IV sedation. Your anesthesia team will adjust your sedation level throughout the procedure. For some procedures, it is helpful to keep you awake so that you can move and follow directions. Other procedures may require you to be more deeply sedated.

  • Is IV sedation the same as general anesthesia?

    No. In most cases, IV sedation does not require intubation (insertion of a breathing tube). General anesthesia requires a breathing tube for support. Anesthesia providers typically can switch from IV sedation to general anesthesia if needed. Your team should discuss the plan with you before any procedure or medication.

  • Is IV sedation only good for specific procedures?

    IV sedation is currently considered the first choice in 10%–30% of procedures. Your health, the procedure to be completed, and your surgeon's recommendations will determine what kind of anesthesia is best for your situation.

5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American College of Anesthesiologists. IV/Monitored sedation.

  2. Das S, Ghosh S. Monitored anesthesia care: An overview. J Anaesthesiol Clin Pharmacol. 2015;31(1):27-9. doi:10.4103/0970-9185.150525

  3. Sohn HM, Ryu JH. Monitored anesthesia care in and outside the operating room. Korean J Anesthesiol. 2016;69(4):319–26. doi:10.4097/kjae.2016.69.4.319

  4. U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus. Anesthesia.

  5. American Society of Anesthesiologists. IV/Monitored sedation.

Originally written by Natalie Kita