Sedation practice in the intensive care unit: a UK national survey

Crit Care. 2008;12(6):R152. doi: 10.1186/cc7141. Epub 2008 Dec 1.


Introduction: The purpose of this study was to evaluate sedation practice in UK intensive care units (ICUs), particularly the implementation of daily sedation holding, written sedation guidelines, sedation scoring tools and choice of agents.

Methods: A national postal survey was conducted in all UK ICUs.

Results: A total of 192 responses out of 302 addressed units were received (63.5%). Of the responding ICUs, 88% used a sedation scoring tool, most frequently the Ramsey Sedation Scale score (66.4%). The majority of units have a written sedation guideline (80%), and 78% state that daily sedation holding is practiced. A wide variety of sedating agents is used, with the choice of agent largely determined by the duration of action rather than cost. The most frequently used agents were propofol and alfentanil for short-term sedation; propofol, midazolam and morphine for longer sedation; and propofol for weaning purposes.

Conclusions: Most UK ICUs use a sedation guideline and sedation scoring tool. The concept of sedation holding has been implemented in the majority of units, and most ICUs have a written sedation guideline.

MeSH terms

  • Choice Behavior
  • Conscious Sedation / statistics & numerical data*
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Hospitals, Public
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / organization & administration*
  • United Kingdom