Is IV sedation being overused?

Prior to a breast or bone marrow biopsy, intravenous sedation is typically offered to, and accepted by, patients.

But, what if some don’t really need such heavy sedation?

Over at Better Health, Harriet Hall wonders if some patients would do just fine with a simple local anesthetic: “Has it become a knee-jerk reflex to sedate everyone as a general principle? Why? To avoid complaints and keep patients more cooperative during procedures? Are we paternalistically deciding that it is better if the patients don’t remember the procedure? I wonder: if minor procedures are not remembered, might the mystery increase anxiety and fear of the unknown for future procedures? We must ask seriously whether IV sedation is done more for the patient’s benefit or the doctor’s.”

There’s something to be said about a cooperative patient during a procedure. Movement due to discomfort or pain can make a biopsy or minor surgical operation more difficult.

But that said, recovery time is longer with heavier forms of sedation, and the patient is exposed to a greater potential of side effects and complications.

Ultimately, the choice is up to the patient, and it should be an informed one. Although I can envision most opting for intravenous sedation for many elective procedures, physicians shouldn’t assume that’s always the case.