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Basic EMS Medical Abbreviations and Acronyms

Professionals who work in emergency Medical Services (EMS) care are often the first line of defense for someone in medical distress. Therefore, they have to be able to convey a lot of information to doctors in a short amount of time. To make sure that you don’t miss a beat if you or a loved one has to take a ride in an ambulance, explore a few common paramedic abbreviations.

Paramedics standing in front of ambulanceParamedics standing in front of ambulance

 

Assessment EMS Abbreviations

From the minute that an EMS worker looks at you, they might start listing off abbreviations to their partner or on the walkie-talkie. Not only is the emergency medical technician (EMT) assessing the condition of the person in distress, but they’re also trying to quickly make a diagnosis to stabilize a person. A few EMT abbreviations for assessment and diagnostic purposes include: 

  • A&O x 3 - Alert and oriented to person, place and time

  • A&O x 4 - Alert and oriented to person, place, time and event 

  • ABC - Airway, breathing and circulation 

  • AMS - Altered mental status 

  • BG - Blood glucose 

  • BP - Blood pressure

  • BS - Breath sounds 

  • C/O - Complaint of 

  • CEPH - Cephalic 

  • CP - Chest pain 

  • DT - Delirium tremens 

  • FB - Foreign body 

  • Fx - Fracture 

  • GI - Gastrointestinal

  • GSW - Gunshot wound 

  • H/A - Headache

  • HEENT - Head, eyes, ears, nose, throat 

  • HR - Heart rate or hour

  • Hx - History 

  • JVD - Jugular vein distension

  • LOC - Level of consciousness or loss of consciousness

  • MS - Mental status

  • MS - Mental status change 

  • MVC - Motor vehicle crash

  • N/V - Nausea/vomiting

  • N/V/D - Nausea/vomiting/diarrhea

  • NAD - No apparent distress 

  • NKDA - No known drug allergies

  • NRB - Non-rebreather

  • NSR - Normal sinus rhythm 

  • PAC - Premature atrial contraction 

  • PRB - Partial rebreather

  • PVC - Premature ventricular contraction

  • RXN - Reaction 

  • SOB - Shortness of breath

  • SQ - Subcutaneous 

  • T - Temperature

Diagnosis & Pre-Existing Conditions Abbreviations

After assessing a person’s condition, EMS workers will make an initial assessment or diagnosis to start stabilization treatment until they can get them to the hospital. They also gather pre-existing conditions and observations. Common diagnosis and condition abbreviations that you might hear from EMTs or need to know to become a paramedic include: 

  • A-FIB - Atrial fibrillation 

  • AAA - Abdominal aortic aneurysm 

  • AKA - Above the knee amputation 

  • BKA - Below the knee amputation

  • C-SECTION - Cesarean section

  • C-SPINE - Cervical spine 

  • CA - Cancer

  • CABG - Coronary artery bypass graft

  • CAD - Coronary artery disease 

  • CHF - Congestive heart failure

  • CNS - Central nervous system

  • COPD - Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease 

  • DKA - Diabetic ketoacidosis 

  • Dx - Diagnosis 

  • GYN - Gynecology or gynecological

  • HTN - Hypertension

  • ICP - Intracranial pressure 

  • MI - Myocardial infarction (heart attack)

  • PE - Pulmonary embolus 

  • ST - Sinus tachycardia

  • SVT - Supraventricular tachycardia

  • SZ - Seizure

  • T-SPINE - Thoracic spine 

  • TIA - Transient ischemic attack

  • VT - Ventricular tachycardia 

  • WAP - Wandering atrial pacemaker

Measurement Abbreviations

Measurements are a science in the medical field, and everything must be exact. Since each is a split-second decision, EMS abbreviations make a worker’s life easier by having several common measurement abbreviations that are used all across the medical field. 

  • AMT - Amount

  • APPROX - Approximately 

  • ASSOC - Associated

  • g - Gram(s) 

  • gtts - Drops 

  • kg - Kilogram

  • mcg - Microgram(s)

  • mg - Milligram(s)

  • min - Minimum or minute

Medical Term Abbreviations

Discussion of body parts and areas are regulated across medical terminology. To ensure that everyone is on the same page and the doctors and emergency service workers communicate effectively, they both use several medical terms for assessment, diagnosis and just to figure out what is wrong. Review basic medical terms that EMTs use. 

  • ABD - Abdomen (abdominal) 

  • AMA - Against medical advice 

  • ASA - Aspirin 

  • BILAT - Bilateral 

  • CSF - Cerebrospinal fluid 

  • DNR - Do not resuscitate 

  • DOA - Dead on arrival

  • ETOH - Ethanol (alcohol) 

  • EXT - External or extension

  • F - Female

  • ICU - Intensive care unit 

  • IM - Intramuscular

  • IV - Intravenous 

  • KVO - Keep vein open

  • L-SPINE - Lumbar spine

  • L/S-SPINE - Lumbarsacral spine 

  • LAT - Lateral

  • lb - Pound

  • LLQ - Left lower quadrant

  • LMP - Last menstrual period

  • LUQ - Left upper quadrant 

  • M - Male

  • MED - Medicine 

  • NS - Normal saline

  • PMHx - Past medical history

  • PO - Orally

  • PRN - As needed

  • PT - Patient

  • RLQ - Right lower quadrant

  • RUQ - Right upper quadrant

  • Rx - Medicine or prescription

  • S/P - Status post 

  • Sx - Symptom

  • TKO - To keep open (refers to IVs - same as KVO) 

  • UOA - Upon our arrival 

  • VS - Vital signs 

  • WNL - Within normal limits

  • YO (YOA) - Years old (years of age)

EMT Abbreviations for Treatments

EMTs don’t just assess an individual, they treat them. This means they use various EMS abbreviations for treatment methods. Just a few common treatment abbreviations that you might come across include: 

  • ACLS - Advanced cardiac life support 

  • ALS - Advanced life support 

  • BLS - Basic life support 

  • BVM - Bag-valve-mask 

  • CATH - Catheter 

  • CPR - Cardiopulmonary resuscitation

  • CT - Cat scan 

  • CVA - Cerebrovascular accident (stroke)

  • ECG - Electrocardiogram

  • EEG - Electroencephalogram 

  • ET - Endotracheal 

  • ETT - Endotracheal tube 

  • L&D - Labor and delivery 

  • MSO4 - Morphine 

  • NC - Nasal cannula

  • NEB - Nebulizer 

  • PALP - Palpation 

  • Tx - Treatment 

EMT Acronyms

When it comes to assessment and treatment on the fly, there is a lot to remember. Therefore, EMT workers use some acronyms to ensure that they remember to check everything. Some easy to remember acronyms used in emergency services include: 

  • AEIOU TIPS - Alcohol, epilepsy, infection, opiates, uremia, trauma, insulin, poisoning and strokes

  • AVPU - Alert, verbal, pain and unresponsive

  • DCAP - BTLS - Deformities, contusions, abrasions, penetrations, burns, tenderness, lacerations and swelling

  • EPI HW - Effects, progression, interventions, how and what

  • FLEX - Flexion 

  • PEARL - Pupils equal and reactive to light 

  • PMS - Pulse, circulation and sensory

  • SAMPLE - Signs or symptoms, allergies, medications, past medical history, last oral intake and events leading to the incident

  • SEEDL - Substance, environment, effects, duration and loss of consciousness

  • SLUDGE - Salivation, lacrimations (tears), urination, defecation, gastrointestinal distress, emesis (vomit)

Paramedic and EMT Abbreviations to Remember

Paramedics and EMTs make split-second decisions daily. That means that they need to use short-hand medical terms to quickly and easily relay information. In this case, EMS abbreviations can come in really handy. Looking for more interesting abbreviations, check out common prescription abbreviations and meanings. Knowing what "OTC" and "susp" mean is important. 

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