Sedation and general anaesthesia for scanning

Some children may find it difficult to stay still during scans, because of their age, nerves or a medical condition. For these reasons, your child may need sedation or general anaesthetic (GA) for their scan.


If your child requires sedation, the hospital staff will send you guidance to prepare your child for the scan.

The sedative is usually a liquid to swallow about 20 to 45 minutes before the scan is scheduled. Some children may need a top-up of the sedative, and this is given intravenously (into the vein). For the intravenous sedative, a numbing cream will be put on your child’s skin for the injection.

Are there risks to sedation?

The risk involved in sedation is low, and this will be discussed fully on the day of the procedure before you sign the consent form. However, the side effects of medication are more common. These may include vomiting when the medication is given, increased sleepiness through the day and irritability. Your child may feel a bit unsteady on their legs afterwards. As a result of this, you may have to stay in hospital for a couple of hours after the scan, under the care of a specialist nurse.

General anaesthetic (GA)

Usually your child cannot eat before GA, and for this reason, scan appointments are generally in the morning. The team will instruct you regarding eating and drinking before the appointments.

The general anaesthetic will be administered by a doctor and their team, who are specialists in anaesthesia. When a child requires GA, the appointment slots may be longer. This is to allow the GA team to ensure that your child has a safe amount of anaesthesia and is breathing normally. The team will monitor your child closely during and after the scan.

Once the scan has been completed, your child will be taken to a recovery room, where they will sleep for a short time. Once they are awake, the anaesthesia team will bring you to the recovery room so you can be with your child. Many children are hungry when they wake up, so it is a good idea to have a drink and a snack on hand for them. Once your child is fully recovered from the GA, they can go home with you. They can eat and drink normally for the rest of the day, but they may feel tired.

Did this information make you feel more resourced, more confident or more in control?