Procedural sedation and analgesia: a review and new concepts

Emerg Med Clin North Am. 2005 May;23(2):503-17. doi: 10.1016/j.emc.2004.12.013.


Procedural sedation and analgesia has become a commonplace procedure in the ED, certainly falling under the domain of the EP. Every EP should approach PSA as a complex procedure requiring high-level skills and knowledge. Initially, understand that PSA represents a spectrum of goals, from anxiolysis and pain relief to deep sedation. Assess the needs of the patient and the concomitant procedure and set goals accordingly. There is a pharmacopia of drugs that provide sedation and analgesia. Become familiar with their pharmacology, advantages and disadvantages, and indications. This will allow for appropriate usage and achievement of sedation goals. Several drugs that are commonly used for general anesthesia are proving themselves to be safe and efficacious for PSA. Both etomidate and propofol have emerged as useful drugs for PSA. Continued research and practice with these agents will add to our understanding and help define their use for PSA. Performing PSA as a procedure itself requires preparedness, diligent monitoring, and risk awareness. Knowing the patient's comorbid state and choosing agents that will not exacerbate their baseline status minimize risk. Following fasting guidelines is appropriate in certain clinical situations, and is prudent when time permits. However, these guidelines are a benchmark for minimizing risk and are not supported by evidence-based medicine. It is important to be cognizant of the guidelines but also to identify the emergency scenario where action must be taken despite the fasting guidelines. Controlling sedation depth also minimizes the risk of aspiration and other complications. The ETCO2 monitor and Bispectral Index may prove to be useful adjuncts for monitoring sedation depth. However, there is nothing yet that measures sedation depth quantitatively that can replace the qualitative assessment of the EP. More and more PSA is falling under the domain of the EP. It is important for the EP to be involved in hospital policy and guidelines associated with this procedure, and to remain aware of new research in this field. EPs can thereby contribute to quality assurance throughout the medical community by setting a standard in the practice of PSA, as they are not the only practitioners using this procedure. With continued practice and research, expertise in this field will grow measurably.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Analgesia / methods*
  • Anesthetics, Intravenous / therapeutic use*
  • Conscious Sedation / methods*
  • Drug Monitoring / methods
  • Emergency Medicine / methods*
  • Etomidate / therapeutic use
  • Fasting
  • Fentanyl / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives / therapeutic use*
  • Ketamine / therapeutic use
  • Methohexital / therapeutic use
  • Midazolam / therapeutic use
  • Preoperative Care / methods
  • Propofol / therapeutic use


  • Anesthetics, Intravenous
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives
  • Ketamine
  • Methohexital
  • Midazolam
  • Fentanyl
  • Propofol
  • Etomidate