The administration of a drug/s (sedative/s) to a patient/s to help them relax or to make them sleep to cope with a medical procedure. There are four levels of sedation from mild, moderate to deep, and finally general anaesthesia.

COVID-19 patients who have developed respiratory failure will need ventilation and will require sedation to minimise physical discomfort. Before being placed on a ventilator they are deeply sedated to help them manage intubation, the first invasive procedure whereby a pipe is inserted into their trachea (windpipe). The patient is then placed on a ventilator to support the respiratory function of the body. This requires ongoing sedation.

Deep sedation, should not be confused with general anaesthesia, given during surgical operations. With general anaesthesia patients are completely unresponsive and unconscious during the procedure. Deep sedation is “a step down” from this. There are health risks associated with long-term sedation including circulation problems and delirium. COVID-19 patients sometimes have to remain on ventilators much longer than people sedated for other reasons, which can potentially lead to worse long-term outcomes.