List of medical abbreviations

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Abbreviations are used very frequently in medicine. They boost efficiency as long as they are used intelligently. The advantages of brevity should be weighed against the possibilities of obfuscation (making the communication harder for others to understand) and ambiguity (having more than one possible interpretation). Certain medical abbreviations are avoided to prevent mistakes, according to best practices (and in some cases regulatory requirements); these are flagged in the list of abbreviations used in medical prescriptions.

Orthographic styling[edit]

Periods (stops)[edit]

Periods (stops) are often used in styling abbreviations. Prevalent practice in medicine today is often to forgo them as unnecessary.

  • Example:
    • Less common: The diagnosis was C.O.P.D.
          [chronic obstructive pulmonary disease]
    • More common: The diagnosis was COPD [1]


The prevalent way to represent plurals for medical acronyms and initialisms is simply to affix a lowercase s (no apostrophe).

  • Example: one OCP, two OCPs  [oral contraceptive pills]. [2]


Possessive forms are not often needed, but can be formed using apostrophe + s. Often the writer can also recast the sentence to avoid it.

  • Example:
    • BP's effect on risk of MI is multifaceted.
    • The effect of BP on MI risk is multifaceted.


Arrows may be used to indicate numerous conditions including elevation (↑), diminution (↓), and causation (→, ←).[3]


Pronunciation follows convention outside the medical field, in which acronyms are generally pronounced as if they were a word (JAMA, SIDS), initialisms are generally pronounced as individual letters (DNA, SSRI), and abbreviations generally use the expansion (soln. = "solution", sup. = "superior"). Abbreviations of weights and measures are pronounced using the expansion of the unit (mg = "milligram") and chemical symbols using the chemical expansion (NaCl = "sodium chloride"). Some initialisms deriving from Latin may be pronounced either as letters (qid = "cue eye dee") or using the English expansion (qid = "four times a day").[citation needed]

Some common medical abbreviations[edit]

Notation conventions

  • This series of lists omits periods from acronyms and initialisms.
  • It uses periods for certain abbreviations that traditionally often have them (mostly older Latin/Neo-Latin abbreviations). For example, both bid and b.i.d. may be found in the list.
  • It generally uses the singular form of an abbreviation (not the plural) as the headword.
  • This list uses significant capitalization for headwords (the abbreviations) and their expansions. [4]

EG abb EG full name Other
(ver change, need to know...etc.)
ABG arterial blood gas
ACE angiotensin-converting enzyme
ACTH adrenocorticotropic hormone
AFVSS Afebrile, vital signs stable[5]
ADH antidiuretic hormone
AED automated external defibrillator
AIDS acquired immunodeficiency syndrome
ALP alkaline phosphatase
ALT alanine aminotransferase  old version is SGPT
ASA acetylsalicylic acid aspirin
AST aspartate aminotransferase  old version is SGOT
ATP adenosine triphosphate
BCG bacille Calmette-Guérin
bd, bid 2 times a day
BIBA brought in by ambulance
BIBP, BIBPD brought in by police
BLS basic life support
BMR basal metabolic rate
BP blood pressure
BPAD bipolar affective disorder
BPD borderline personality disorder Often incorrectly used for bipolar disorder (BPAD is preferred)
BSA body surface area
BR bedside rounds
BUN blood urea nitrogen
C Celsius; centigrade; complement
Ca calcium
CAMP, cAMP cyclic adenosine monophosphate
CBC complete blood count
CDC Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
cGy centigray
Ci curie
CK creatine kinase
Cl chloride; chlorine
cm centimeter(s)/centimetre(s)
CNS central nervous system
CO2 carbon dioxide
COPD chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
CPK creatine phosphokinase
CPK-MB creatine phosphokinase muscle bandisoenzyme
CPR cardiopulmonary resuscitation
CSF cerebrospinal fluid
CT computed tomography
Cu cubic
D & C dilation and curettage
dL deciliter(s)/decilitre(s) 1 dL = 100 mL
DNA deoxyribonucleic acid
DTP diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis(toxoids/vaccine)
D/W dextrose in water
ECF extracellular fluid
ECG electrocardiogram
EEG electroencephalogram
EGD esophagogastroduodenoscopy
ENT ear nose and throat
ERCP endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography
ESR erythrocyte sedimentation rate
F Fahrenheit
FDA U.S. Food and Drug Administration
Ft foot; feet measure unit
FUO fever of unknown origin
G, g gram(s)
GFR glomerular filtration rate
GI gastrointestinal
GVHD graft-versus-host disease
G6PD glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase
GU genitourinary
Gy gray
H, h, hr hour(s) '/24' is generally used in some regions.
Hb hemoglobin
HCl hydrochloric acid; hydrochloride
HCO3 bicarbonate
Hct hematocrit
Hg mercury
HIPAA Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act
HIV human immunodeficiency virus
HLA human leukocyte antigen
HMG-CoA hydroxymethyl glutaryl coenzyme A
hs at bedtime 
Hz hertz  cycles/second unit
ICF intracellular fluid
ICU intensive care unit
IgA etc. immunoglobulin A
IL interleukin
IM intramuscular(ly)
INR international normalized ratio
IPPB intermittent positive pressure breathing
IU international unit
IV intravenous(ly)
IVU intravenous urography
K potassium
kcal kilocalorie(s) mean food calorie
kg kilogram(s)
L liter(s)/litre(s)
lb pound(s)
LDH lactic dehydrogenase
LDLc low-density lipoprotein cholesterol
M molar
m meter(s)/metre(s)
mane in the morning
mc micro- required in some regions to avoid the confusion of 'μ' with 'm' ('milli-').
MCH mean corpuscular hemoglobin
MCHC mean corpuscular hemoglobin concentration
mCi millicurie
MCV mean corpuscular volume
mEq Milliequivalent
midi midday
Mg magnesium
mg milligram(s)
MI myocardial infarction
MIC minimum inhibitory concentration
min(s) minute(s) '/60' is used in some regions.
mIU milli-international unit
mL, ml milliliter(s)/millilitre(s)
mm millimeter(s)/millimetre(s)
mmol millimole(s)
mo month '/12' is used in some regions.
mol wt molecular weight
mOsm milliosmole(s)
MRI magnetic resonance imaging
N nitrogen; normal unit to measure strength of solution
Na sodium
NaCl sodium chloride
NAEON no adverse events overnight[6]
ng nanogram billionth of a gram; also known as millimicrogram
nm nanometer billionth of a meter; also known as millimicron
nmol nanomole
nocte at night
Npo nothing by mouth/nil by mouth
NSAID nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug
O2 oxygen
OTC over-the-counter  pharmaceuticals
oz ounce(s)
P phosphorus; pressure
PAco2 alveolar carbon dioxide partial pressure
Paco2 arterial carbon dioxide partial pressure
PAo2 alveolar oxygen partial pressure
Pao2 arterial oxygen partial pressure
PAS periodic acid-Schiff
Pco2 carbon dioxide partial pressure or tension
PCR polymerase chain reaction
PET positron emission tomography
pg picogram(s) micromicrogram
pH hydrogen ion concentration
PMN polymorphonuclear leukocyte
po orally
Po2 oxygen partial pressure  or tension
PPD purified protein derivative  tuberculin
ppm parts per million
prn as needed from the Latin pro re nata
PT prothrombin time
PTT partial thromboplastin time
q every
qid 4 times a day
RA rheumatoid arthritis
RBC red blood cell
RNA ribonucleic acid
Sao2 arterial oxygen saturation
SBE subacute bacterial endocarditis
sc subcutaneous(ly)
s/e side-effect(s)
SI International System of Units
SIDS sudden infant death syndrome
SLE systemic lupus erythematosus
soln solution
sp species singular
spp species  plural
sp gr specific gravity
sq square
SSRI selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor
STS serologic test(s) for syphilis
T&A tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy
TB tuberculosis
tds 3 times a day tid preferred in some regions
TIBC total iron-binding capacity
tid 3 times a day tds preferred in some regions
TPN total parenteral nutrition
URI upper respiratory infection
URTI upper respiratory tract infection
UTI urinary tract infection
WBC white blood cell
WHO World Health Organization
WR ward round
wt weight
μ micro-; micron
μCi microcurie
μg microgram(s)
μL microliter(s)/microlitre(s)
μm micrometer(s)/micrometre(s) also referred to as microns
μmol micromole(s)
μOsm micro-osmole(s)
millimicron(s) also referred to as nanometers/nanometres

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Vera Pyle’s Current Medical Terminology, 11th Ed., Health Professions Institute, Modesto, California, 2007, p. 174
  2. ^ The AAMT Book of Style for Medical Transcription, 2nd Ed., Peg Hughes, CMT, American Association for Medical Transcription, ISBN 0-935229-38-8, copyright 2002
  3. ^ "Stedman's Online | Reference" (PDF).
  4. ^ The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy, 28th Ed., page xi, Merck Research Laboratories, Whitehouse Station, NJ, 2006
  5. ^ "". Retrieved January 22, 2021.
  6. ^ "AllAcronyms". AllAcronyms. January 22, 2021. Retrieved January 22, 2021.
  • Movshovitz-Attias, Dana; Cohen, William W. (2012). Alignment-HMM-based Extraction of Abbreviations from Biomedical Text. Montreal, Canada: NAACL. [1].
  • Davis, Neil M. (2014). Medical Abbreviations: 32,000 Conveniences at the Expense of Communication and Safety (15th ed.). Warminster, PA, USA: Neil M Davis Associates. ISBN 978-0-931431-15-9. Available online (by subscription) at
  • Jablonski, Stanley (2008). Jablonski's Dictionary of Medical Acronyms and Abbreviations with CD-ROM (6th ed.). Philadelphia: Saunders. ISBN 978-1-4160-5899-1.
  • Sloane, Sheila B. (1997). Medical Abbreviations & Eponyms (2nd ed.). Philadelphia: Saunders. ISBN 978-0-7216-7088-1.

External links[edit]