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What is Premedication?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Premedication is medication which is administered in advance of anesthesia or a medical procedure. This medication is typically prescribed by the doctor performing a procedure or by an anesthesiologist who wants the patient to remain as comfortable as possible during the procedure. A number of medications are used in premedication, ranging from sedatives to help patients relax before anesthesia is induced to antibiotics administered to reduce the risk of developing an infection.

Premedications often include drugs which are designed to relax the patient. These drugs can facilitate induction of anesthesia by making the patient more comfortable, and they can reduce stress for patients undergoing procedures under light sedation. The premedication is delivered far enough in advance that it has taken effect by the time the patient needs to be put under anesthesia, or by the time the procedure begins. These drugs can also include medications to manage pain, and muscle relaxers so that the patient will not move during induction of anesthesia or the progress of a procedure.

A doctor may also prescribe premedication before chemotherapy, to reduce the risk of adverse reactions in the patient. Chemotherapy drugs are highly toxic, and sometimes patients develop severe reactions or allergies. These reactions can be limited with the use of premedication, and the drugs may also keep the patient more comfortable during a chemotherapy session. Other medications may be recommended for patients with specific conditions or who are about to undergo particular drug regimens to make patients comfortable and to reduce the risk of adverse reactions.

Dental premedication was recommended for many years to prevent endocarditis, a very serious inflammation of the heart which can be caused by infection. The risk of developing endocarditis was closely associated with some dental procedures, making it a concern for heart patients and people with compromised immune systems. In 2007, the guidelines for premedication in dental procedures were adjusted, with professional organizations recommending lower dosages and prophylactic medication for fewer patients to reflect new knowledge about the risks and benefits of dental premedication.

When premedication is recommended for a patient, the patient should discuss the medications being used and why they are being used. Understanding what will happen during medical treatment can reduce stress for patients and help them feel more involved in their medical care. Discussions about medications can also offer an opportunity for patients to disclose allergies to particular classes of drugs, and an opportunity to discuss alternatives for patients with allergies.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a The Health Board researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By ceilingcat — On Sep 25, 2011

@JaneAir - I think I remember the same thing from my last dental visit. I was too nervous to pay very close attention though!

Which actually kind of highlights a point the article made: the importance of discussing premedication with the patient. I'm pretty sure last time I went to the dentist, the dentist didn't really tell me much about what they were doing when they were numbing me. I think I would have been more comfortable if I had a better idea about why they were doing what they were doing.

By JaneAir — On Sep 24, 2011

I'm pretty sure premedication is still used in dentistry. If I remember correctly, last time I went to the dentist they numbed my gum before injecting me with the anesthetic. Medication before medication!

I believe they numb the gum so it doesn't hurt when the anesthetic is injected. I imagine it would be very uncomfortable to totally feel the injection, so I'm glad they do this!

By sunshined — On Sep 24, 2011

I recently had some outpatient surgery done and was given some premedication before the general anesthesia. I think this is a good idea as it helps you feel very calm and relaxed before they even wheel you in to the operating room.

It had been awhile since I had any surgery and I was surprised at how much faster I recovered from the adverse effects of the anesthesia than I had in the past.

When I was recovering, my nurse told me they have made some good advances in the use of anesthesia in recent years which has really cut back on the recovery time.

By the next day I didn't feel any effects at all, when in the past I would feel kind of groggy for at least 2-3 days.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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