We prospectively evaluated 226 patients under 18 years of age who underwent 296 procedures, and intravenous sedation and general anesthesia were compared in regard to efficacy, safety, and cost. Children 6 to 9 years of age required the highest doses of midazolam (0.14 +/- 0.04 mg/kg) and meperidine (2.5 +/- 0.8 mg/kg). A Relative Adequacy Scale, constructed to assess each patient's arousal and cooperation during intravenous sedation, revealed a 95% completion rate. Heart rate monitored before, during, and after the procedure was similar in both groups during the procedure, but a lower preprocedure heart rate was noted in older patients having intravenous sedation, suggesting less patient anxiety. Average charges, excluding endoscopist's and pathology fees, were $768.52 in the intravenous sedation group versus $1,965.42 in the general anesthesia group. Endoscopic procedures can be performed safely, effectively, and at a lower cost to the patient under intravenous sedation in a properly equipped and staffed pediatric endoscopy suite.