Just as the history of sedation is a continuum of events and discoveries, it is important to understand that sedation itself is a continuum. The boundaries between the different levels of sedation may not always be evident to the untrained or inexperienced and progression from one level to a higher level may quickly occur as patients do not always respond predictably to any particular sedative agent, i.e., they may respond idiosyncratically. Table 1 summarizes the different levels of sedation continuum and their characteristics.
Table 1. The Sedation Continuum.
|Repeated painful stimulus
|May need assistance
|Ventilation may be impaired
|No response/not easily aroused
|Often needs assistance
|May be impaired