ICU Sedation: Benzodiazepines (IV)
What are benzodiazepines?
Benzodiazepines are typically given through a patient’s veins (IV or intravenously) and work in the brain to cause sedation (sleepiness, drowsiness), decrease anxiety, and provide amnesia (help the patient to not remember much of her time in the intensive care unit). Examples of benzodiazepines include lorazepam (AtivanÒ), midazolam (VersedÒ), and diazepam (ValiumÒ).
Why are benzodiazepines important?
Patients who are in the intensive care unit may be anxious and uncomfortable. This is especially true if they require a breathing machine (mechanical ventilator) to help their breathing. Benzodiazepines will help keep patients comfortable and breathe more easily on the ventilator. Sometimes these medications can also improve the quality of sleep for the patients while they are in the intensive care unit. Benzodiazepines may also be given to patients before certain procedures in order to reduce anxiety.
How will the patient look or feel on benzodiazepines?
Benzodiazepines cause sedation, so the patient will look calm and relaxed. In fact, he or she may look like they are sleeping. The patient may not be able to open their eyes or answer questions. Benzodiazepines also have an amnesia effect, so they will not likely remember anything that happens while they are receiving these medicines.
What are the side effects of benzodiazepines?
Benzodiazepines cause few side effects, but can sometimes cause upset stomach (nausea), throwing up (vomiting), and loose stools or diarrhea.
How long will benzodiazepines be continued?
The length of time that a patient needs benzodiazepines depends on their medical condition. Sometimes benzodiazepines are given as quick IV injections and other times they are given throughout the entire day. The healthcare workers involved with your friend or loved one’s stay will determine if these medications are still needed.
If you have any questions about benzodiazepines or other questions relating to the patient’s care, please ask the staff in the intensive care unit.
The information provided should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
Last Updated: 05/14/2013
Copyright © 05/14/2013 University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#5197
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