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Procedural sedation and analgesia techniques are an essential skill for any Emergency Physician. Our daily practice employs painful and anxiety-provoking measures to perform diagnostic testing or therapeutic interventions. These skills not only apply to the operator, but to the individual monitoring the procedure as well. Procedural sedation and analgesia is a skill that may require a credentialing procedure at your respective institution. It probably has evoked a written procedural guide in your respective department, with or without the input from a hospital-wide procedural sedation and analgesia committee or the Department of Anesthesiology. It may require annual competency assessments in the form of a written examination or practical scenarios. It is a technique that probably receives a great deal of attention from the continuous quality improvement committee as a result of the Joint Commission of Accreditation of Hospital Organization’s directive. It is a skill that, with proper training and well-designed application principles, will provide your patient and their families with a sense of compassion and caring for their physical and emotional distress. It is a skill that may result in horrific outcomes when performed without appropriate training, knowledge, risk-benefit analysis, and anticipation of complications.


An extensive spectrum of painful and anxiety-provoking clinical presentations arrive in an Emergency Department on any given day. There may be a dislocation reduction, a fracture reduction, a diagnostic lumbar puncture, a sexual assault examination on a child, or neuro-imaging on a combative, head injured patient. Each presentation has a separate subset of variables to consider prior to procedural sedation and analgesia. While Anesthesiologists are still considered the experts in sedation, they are not readily available to the Emergency Department’s beck and call. Multiple specialties have developed guidelines for the use of procedural sedation and analgesia to account for these limitations and to ensure that safe, effective care can be rendered to their respective patient populations.1–3


The environment of the Emergency Department is unique in many facets of procedural sedation and analgesia due to the fact that situations are nonelective. Procedures are relatively brief, thereby making operating suite time neither timely nor cost effective. Intrinsic to procedural sedation and analgesia is the core training and frequent exposure that Emergency Medicine practitioners have to this particular skill. Who better to handle an untoward cardiopulmonary complication of a procedure than a specialist in the area of airway management and resuscitation?


It will be critical to your techniques and drug selection to take a variety of parameters into consideration before the first medication is administered. The potency and effectiveness of today’s newer agents is a double-edged sword. They are invaluable with the correct selection and administration. They are also a recipe for disaster if risks are not appropriately identified and minimized. Monitoring techniques, including pulse oximetry and capnography, are effective adjuncts to procedural monitoring. However, they are no substitute for a trained, dedicated observer.


Textbooks and review articles use various definitions to define components ...

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