Digestive Health Associates

Southwest Endoscopy Center

Sedation/Anesthesia FAQs

Please be aware that endoscopic sedation/anesthesia practices are rapidly evolving and vary considerably from region to region around the world and within the United States.  While we invite guests to this website who are not our patients to learn from the information we are providing here, we recommend that you confer directly with your own gastroenterologist regarding the sedation/anesthesia options that will be available to you for your procedure.  The sedation options we offer at Digestive Health's facilities may not be available to you at other practices.

We use propofol-based sedation for most procedures performed at the Southwest Endoscopy Center and Mercy Regional Medical Center.  Our doctors and staff have over 8 years of experience with this sedation technique, which for those patients who choose it reliably affords a pain-free "sleep-like" procedure, with very rapid awakening and virtually no sense of nausea, drug "hangover" or other lingering side effect.    Please let us know if you have a question which is not addressed here.

For more information see our Sedation Options page.

What does sedation feel like?

Most patients have little recall of "going under."  Those who do typically remember pleasant and relaxed feelings.  Patients receiving moderate sedation with fentanyl-midazolam alone (last used on a routine basis at Digestive Health in 2006) may have complete or near-complete amnesia for their procedure, and for a period of time after the procedure, which occasionally lasts for several hours.  While this is not unpleasant for many patients, it is not unusual for individuals to complain that they felt "drugged" for hours after their procedure.  This was quite troublesome for some patients.  Individuals who are sedated with our current propofol-based sedation plan often report quite vivid dreams, which are typically pleasant in nature.  Propofol-based sedation also causes complete or near-complete amnesia for the procedure, but memory and most cognitive functions typically return nearly to normal prior to discharge.  Patients sedated with propofol rarely complain of feeling "drugged" and more often remark that they feel as if they had a great nap.  While fentanyl and other opioid-type drugs may cause nausea, particularly at higher doses, this is rare with propofol.

Also see Sedation Options



Is sedation needed in every case?  I'm afraid of sedation and want to be awake if possible.

Our goal is to provide you with a safe, complete and comfortable endoscopic procedure.  There is considerable variation from patient to patient with respect to tolerance for these procedures.  Some motivated patients may be able to tolerate an unsedated upper endoscopy well but not colonoscopy, and vice versa. 

The ability to tolerate an unsedated upper endoscopy depends largely on the sensitivity of your gag reflex and your general anxiety level about the procedure.  If you are highly motivated to avoid sedation and can wiggle two of your fingers in the back of your throat for a few minutes without gagging or retching you may be a good candidate to try unsedated endoscopy.  On the other hand, if even the thought of fingers in your throat makes you gag it is unlikely that you will tolerate the exam without sedation.


The ability to tolerate colonoscopy without sedation or with conventional moderate sedation depends on factors relating to your sensitivity to anal and rectal manipulation, manipulation of the colon and its supporting tissues, and to the amount of manipulation of the colon necessary to complete the exam, which is quite variable from patient to patient and difficult to predict before the procedure.  Additionally, the need for sedation in colonoscopy depends on the technical difficulty of the exam, which also is variable and hard to predict.  In general, thin woman tend to be more difficult to examine than overweight men, though this is not universal.  A prior hysterectomy also seems to predict a more difficult exam.  Procedural techniques that enhance the potential success of unsedated colonoscopy, water infusion-exchange colonoscopy and carbon dioxide insufflation, are frequently used at the Southwest Endoscopy Center for both unsedated and sedated colonoscopy. 


Propofol provides much more flexibility in meeting sedation needs than sedation with fentanyl-midazolam because of its very rapid onset, the range of sedation depth that can be safely achieved, and the short duration of effect.  With propofol it is possible for your doctor to take you "deeper" for one to two minutes during what might otherwise be a painful insertion of the colonoscope through the left side of your colon (the part of the exam most often associated with discomfort) and then "lighten you up" for the remainder of the examination.  If desired, propofol sedation can be discontinued on reaching the highest part of your colon (the cecum) so you can wake up and watch the procedure during the instrument withdrawal, which is generally not uncomfortable.

Also see Sedation Options


Will I remember anything?  I am scared of feeling pain and I want to be "out."

Most of our patients prefer not to remember their examinations.  Sedation with propofol is more likely than conventional moderate endoscopic sedation (using midazolam-fentanyl) to succeed in providing a pain-free examination.  It is very unusual for patients at our center to report the recall of any significant discomfort.  It is important for you to discuss your preferences regarding your sedation with your doctor, who will work with you to incorporate your wishes into your sedation plan.
Also see Sedation Options

Can I drive home after sedation?

While the medications we use are very short acting there are not adequate data in the medical literature to confidently determine when psychomotor function returns sufficiently to allow safe driving.  We instruct you not to drive or operate potentially dangerous machinery until the day after your procedure.


I want to see my colon...is that possible?


Just as some patients ask not to remember anything, others want to see some or all of their exam.  You should discuss this with your doctor before the examination.  In most cases patients sedated with propofol can be allowed to awaken during the withdrawal of the colonoscope, once the cecum has been reached.  Colonoscopy is not usually uncomfortable once the cecum has been reached.


I always vomit after anesthetics...sometimes for hours.  Will the drugs you use cause this reaction?

Virtually never.  Low dose midazolam and propofol do not cause nausea.  We generally avoid administering fentanyl to patients who have severe sensitivity to opioid-type drugs (codeine, morphine, meperedine or Demerol, Lortab).
  Please let us know if you have a history of vomiting due to anesthesia or opioid drugs.

Will I say something I shouldn't or divulge a private secret during sedation?

This is a common worry.  It is not unusual for patients to become talkative when under the influence of sedative drugs, and they often are surprised to hear things that they chatted about as they were "going under," during the exam itself, or as they recovered.  Personally speaking however, over 28 years of endoscopy practice the editor of this page has had none of his patients divulge a personal secret or anything else that they in retrospect thought was inappropriate during the examinations he has performed.



I had sedation for endoscopy or colonoscopy this morning and now I have fever, chills and muscle aches.  What is going on and what should I do?

These symptoms are not expected and should be reported immediately to your physician.  If you also have throat, neck, chest or abdominal pain or tenderness, an endoscopic complication such as perforation or splenic injury must be assumed to have occurred until proven otherwise.  Early diagnosis and treatment is key to achieving the best outcome.  If you have no other symptoms your fever, chills and body aches may be due to the sedative administered for your procedure, particularly if you received propofol.  The FDA and CDC are investigating clusters of propofol-associated fever from around the country.  Evaluation and treatment for bacterial sepsis is recommended if this problem is suspected.


Also see Sedation Options

Southwest Endoscopy Center
Western Colorado's Accredited Endoscopy Center