Common Medical Abbreviations & Terms

Reviewed on 3/8/2022

What should I know about medical abbreviations? What do they mean?

Have you ever wondered why you can't read the doctor's note or the letters and numbers on a prescription? Health care professionals often quickly scribble notes with important medical information that they would like a patient to reference in regard to the type of current, or recently diagnosed disease, syndrome, or other health condition(s). Have you ever seen the doctor's notes in your medical record and found peculiar abbreviations and jargon? Do you wonder what the letters and numbers mean on your prescriptions or other items related to a disease, syndrome, or disorder?

Doctors and other health care professionals commonly use a list of abbreviations, acronyms, and other medical terminology as a reference to rapidly search and accurately record information about, and give instructions to their patients. There is no standard or approved list used by health care professionals to search for medical acronyms or abbreviations. Therefore, it is important to understand the context in which the abbreviation or term has been used.

Abbreviations, acronyms, and medical terminology are used for many conditions, and for instructions on medication prescribed by your doctor. This is a shortlist of common abbreviations you may have seen on a doctor's notepad; a prescription drug package or bottle; lab or other test results; or in your doctor's notes.

Use this list as a resource for common abbreviations and acronyms used in the health care community, to quickly search and answer your questions about those letters and numbers of a drug your doctor has prescribed to you, or other notes from your doctor or other medical professionals.

A - Medical abbreviations


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B - Medical abbreviations

C - Medical abbreviations


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D - Medical abbreviations

E - Medical abbreviations

  • ETOH: Alcohol. ETOH intake history is often recorded as part of patient history.
  • ECT: Electroconclusive therapy. A procedure used to control seizures (convulsions).

F - Medical abbreviations

G - Medical abbreviations

  • g: gram, a unit of weight. The cream is available in both 30 and 60-gram tubes.
  • GOMER: Slang for "get out of my emergency room."
  • GvHD: Graft vs. host disease. It is complicated by the syndromes of acute and chronic graft-vs-host disease (GVHD).
  • gtt: Drops.

H - Medical abbreviations

I - Medical abbreviations

J - Medical abbreviations

  • JT: Joint.

K - Medical abbreviations

L - Medical abbreviations


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M - Medical abbreviations

N - Medical abbreviations

  • N/V: Nausea or vomiting.
  • Na: Sodium. An essential electrolyte is frequently monitored regularly in intensive care.
  • NCP: Nursing care plan
  • NPO: Nothing by mouth. For example, if a patient was about to undergo a surgical operation requiring general anesthesia, they may be required to avoid food or beverage prior to the procedure.
  • NSR: Normal sinus rhythm of the heart

O - Medical abbreviations

  • O&P: Ova and parasites. Stool O & P is tested in the laboratory to detect parasitic infection in persons with chronic diarrhea.
  • O.D.: Right eye.
  • O.S.: Left eye.
  • O.U.: Both eyes.
  • ORIF: Open reduction and internal fixation, such as with the orthopedic repair of a hip fracture.

P - Medical abbreviations

  • P: Pulse. Pulse is recorded as part of the physical examination. It is one of the "vital signs."
  • : After meals. As intake two tablets after meals.
  • p.o.: By mouth. From the Latin terminology per os.
  • p.r.n.: As needed. So that it is not always done, but done only when the situation calls for it (for example, taking pain medication only when having pain and not without pain).
  • PCL: Posterior cruciate ligament.
  • PD: Progressive disease. Patients at risk of developing progressive disease of the kidneys include those with proteinuria or hematuria.
    PERRLA: Pupils equal, round, and reactive to light and accommodation.
    PFT: Pulmonary function test. A test to evaluate how well the lungs are functioning.
  • PERRLA: Pupils equal, round, and reactive to light and accommodation.
  • Plt: Platelets, one of the blood-forming elements along with the white and red blood cells.
  • PMI: Point of the maximum impulse of the heart when felt during the examination, as in beats against the chest.
  • PMS: Premenstrual syndrome
  • PT: Physical therapy
  • PTH: Parathyroid hormone
  • PTSD: Post-traumatic stress syndrome
  • PUD: Peptic ulcer disease. A type of ulcer of the stomach.


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Q - Medical abbreviations

  • q.d.: Each day. As in taking medicine daily.
  • q.i.d.: Four times daily. As in taking a medicine four times daily.
  • q2h: Every 2 hours. As in taking a medicine every 2 hours.
  • q3h: Every 3 hours. As in taking a medicine every 3 hours.
  • qAM: Each morning. As in taking medicine each morning.
  • qhs: At each bedtime. As in taking medicine each bedtime.
  • qod: Every other day. As in taking medicine every other day.
  • qPM: Each evening. As in taking medicine each evening.

R - Medical abbreviations

  • RA: Rheumatoid arthritis. A type of joint disease.
  • RDS: Respiratory distress syndrome
  • R/O: Rule out. Doctors frequently will rule out various possible diagnoses when figuring out the correct diagnosis.
  • REB: Rebound, as in rebound tenderness of the abdomen when pushed in and then released.
  • RLQ: Right lower quadrant. The appendix is located in the RLQ of the abdomen.
  • ROS: Review of systems. An overall review concerns relating to the organ systems, such as the respiratory, cardiovascular, and neurologic systems.
  • RUQ: Right upper quadrant. The liver is located in the RUQ of the abdomen.

S - Medical abbreviations

  • s/p: Status post. For example, a person who had a knee operation would be s/p a knee operation.
  • SAD: Season affective disorder. A type of depression that occurs during the winter months when there is little light.
  • SOB: Shortness of breath.
  • SQ: Subcutaneous. This is a typical notation when noting or ordering an injection (shot) given into the fatty tissue under the skin, such as with insulin for diabetes mellitus.

T - Medical abbreviations

U - Medical abbreviations

  • UA or u/a: Urinalysis. A UA is a typical part of a comprehensive physical examination.
  • U or u: Unit. Mistaken as the number 0 or 4, causing a 10-fold overdose or greater (for example, 4U seen as "40" or 4u seen as "44"); mistaken as "cc" so the dose is given in volume instead of units (for example, 4u seen as 4cc).
  • ULN: Upper limits of normal
  • URI: Upper respiratory infection, such as sinusitis or the common cold
  • ut dict: As directed. As in taking medicine according to the instructions that the health care professional gave in the office or in the past
  • UTI: Urinary tract infection

V - Medical abbreviations

  • VSS: Vital signs are stable. This notation means that from the standpoint of the temperature, blood pressure, and pulse, the patient is doing well.

W - Medical abbreviations

  • Wt: Weight. Body weight is often recorded as part of the physical examination.

X - Medical abbreviations

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**These Medical Abbreviations are included on TJC's "minimum list" of dangerous Medical Abbreviations, acronyms and symbols that must be included on an organization's "Do Not Use" list, effective January 1, 2004. Visit for more information about this TJC requirement.

REFERENCES: "Medical Terminology for Cancer." Updated: Feb 01, 2014.

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. "Acronym List."
<> "Unsafe Medical Abbreviations." 2015.

Columbia University. "Pediatric Dentistry Approved Abbreviations."

Flanders University; School of Nursing and Midwifery. "Clinical communication."

Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.

Pidala, J., et al. "Graft-vs-host disease following allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation." Cancer Control. 2011 Oct;18(4):268-76.

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