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Common Medical Abbreviations List

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 see 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 short list 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

QUESTION

What percentage of the human body is water? See Answer

D - Medical abbreviations

E - Medical abbreviations

  • ETOH: Alcohol. ETOH intake history is often recorded as part of a 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

K - Medical abbreviations

L - Medical abbreviations

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M - Medical abbreviations

N - Medical abbreviations

O - Medical abbreviations

P - Medical abbreviations

QUESTION

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Q - Medical abbreviations

  • q.d.: Each day. As in taking a 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 a medicine each morning.
  • qhs: At each bedtime. As in taking a medicine each bedtime.
  • qod: Every other day. As in taking a medicine every other day.
  • qPM: Each evening. As in taking a medicine each evening.

R - Medical abbreviations

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 a 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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Reviewed on 7/25/2019
References
**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 www.jointcommission.org for more information about this TJC requirement.

REFERENCES:

Cancerindex.org. "Medical Terminology for Cancer." Updated: Feb 01, 2014.
<http://www.cancerindex.org/medterm/medtm15.htm>

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. "Acronym List."
<https://www.cms.gov/apps/acronyms/listall.asp?Letter=ALL>

ConsumerMedSafety.org. "Unsafe Medical Abbreviations." 2015.
<http://www.consumermedsafety.org/tools-and-resources/medication-safety-tools-and-resources/know-your-medicine/unsafe-medical-abbreviations>

Columbia University. "Pediatric Dentistry Approved Abbreviations."
<http://www.columbia.edu/itc/hs/dental/d7710/files/abbreviations.html>

Flanders University; School of Nursing and Midwifery. "Clinical communication."
<http://nursing.flinders.edu.au/students/studyaids/clinicalcommunication/page_glossary.php?id=13>

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.
<https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21976245>
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