Medical Abbreviations List: Common Healthcare Terminology

Whether you’re trying to understand what your doctor just said or you’re attempting to decipher your hospital bill, you’ve probably been stymied by confusing medical abbreviations once or twice. Luckily, there’s an easy way to figure out common healthcare abbreviations and acronyms. (We can’t say the same about paying that hospital bill, though.)

Doctor listening to baby's breathing with stethoscope Doctor listening to baby's breathing with stethoscope
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General Medical Abbreviations

What’s the difference between an H&P and an HPI? Should you leave the hospital AMA or A&W? Learn about common medical abbreviations that patients should know so they can make the best healthcare decisions.

  • ADM - Admission, Admitted
  • AOB - Alcohol on Breath
  • ALS - Advanced Life Support
  • AMA - Against Medical Advice, American Medical Association
  • ASAP - As Soon As Possible
  • A&W - Alive and Well
  • BM - Bowel Movement
  • BMD - Bone Mass Density
  • BMI - Body Mass Index
  • BMR - Basal Metabolic Rate
  • BP - Blood Pressure
  • C - Centigrade, Celsius
  • CBF - Cerebral Blood Flow
  • CC - Cubic Centimeter, Chief Complaint, Critical Care
  • C/O - Complains Of, Care Of
  • CV - Cardiovascular
  • D/C - Discontinue or Discharge
  • DNR - Do Not Resuscitate
  • DO - Disorder
  • DOB - Date of Birth
  • DOT - Directly Observed Therapy
  • DSM - Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
  • Dx - Diagnosis
  • EDC - Estimated Date of Confinement
  • EDD - Estimated Delivery Date
  • EGA - Estimated Gestational Age
  • FB - Foreign Body
  • FHR - Fetal Heart Rate
  • FM - Fetal Movement
  • FROM - Free Range of Motion
  • FT - Full Term
  • FX - Fracture
  • GA - Gestational Age
  • GH - Growth Hormone
  • GHRH - Growth Hormone Releasing Hormone
  • GI - Gastrointestinal
  • GU - Genitourinary
  • H&P - History and Physical Examination
  • HB - Hemoglobin
  • HDL - High Density Lipoprotein
  • HPI - History of Present Illness
  • H/O - History Of
  • HR - Heart Rate (or Hour)
  • HS - Hour of Sleep (Bedtime)
  • I&O - Intake and Output
  • ICU - Intensive Care Unit
  • ID - Infectious Diseases
  • IM - Intramuscular
  • IP - Inpatient
  • IQ - Intelligence Quotient
  • IU - International Units
  • IV - Intravenous
  • IVP - Intravenous Push
  • MCO - Managed Care Organization
  • N/V - Nausea/Vomiting
  • NKDA - No Known Drug Allergies
  • NM - Neuromuscular
  • NTG - Nitroglycerin
  • NVD - Normal Vaginal Delivery
  • O2 - Oxygen
  • OPD - Outpatient Department
  • P - Pulse
  • Post-op - Postoperative (after surgery)
  • Pre-op - Preoperative (before surgery)
  • PA or PT - Patient
  • PT - Physical Therapy
  • PCP - Primary Care Physician
  • PPE - Personal Protection Equipment
  • RBC - Red Blood Cell
  • RF - Risk Factor
  • RXN - Reaction
  • S - Sans (without)
  • SC or SQ - Subcutaneous
  • S/S - Signs and Symptoms
  • STAT - Statim (immediately)
  • SX - Symptoms
  • T - Temperature
  • TLC - Total Lung Capacity
  • TPR - Temperature, Pulse, Respiration
  • UO - Urine Output
  • USOH - Usual State of Health
  • WT - Weight

Emergency Medical Abbreviations

In an emergency situation, rapid communication can be the difference between life and death. Common abbreviations found in an ER include:

  • A&O - Alert and Oriented
  • ABC - Airway-Circulation-Breathing
  • A-Fib - Atrial Fibrillation (irregular heartbeat)
  • CAB - Circulation-Airway-Breathing
  • CPR - Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation
  • CVA - Cerebral Vascular Accident (stroke)
  • DOA - Dead on Arrival or Date of Admission
  • EBL - Estimated Blood Loss
  • EC - Eye Contact
  • ER - Emergency Room
  • FEF - Forced Expiratory Flow
  • FRC - Functional Residual Capacity
  • GSW - Gunshot Wound
  • LOF - Loss of Fluid
  • MVA - Motor Vehicle Accident
  • NAD - No Acute Distress
  • REM - Rapid Eye Movements
  • SOB - Shortness of Breath
  • VF - Ventricular Fibrillation
  • VS - Vital Signs
  • VSS - Vital Signs Stable
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Common Prescription Abbreviations

Prescription labels must be both brief and thorough — a task accomplished by the many medical abbreviations found in a pharmacist’s office. They include:

  • ABX - Antibiotics
  • AC - Ante Cibum (before meals)
  • Ad lib - Ad Libitum (at will, as desired)
  • BC - Birth Control
  • BID - Bis In Dies (twice a day)
  • CAP - Capsule
  • GTT - Guttae (drops)
  • MDD - Maximum Daily Dose
  • NPO - Nil Per Os (nothing by mouth)
  • OCP - Oral Contraceptive Pill
  • OPV - Oral Polio Vaccine
  • OTC - Over The Counter
  • PC - Post Cibum (after meals)
  • PCN - Penicillin
  • PNV - Prenatal Vitamins
  • PO - Per Os (by mouth)
  • PRN - Pro Re Nata (as needed)
  • q2h - Quaque Segunda Hora (every 2 hours)
  • q4h - Quaque Quarta Hora (every 3 hours)
  • qam - Quaque Ante Meridiem (every morning)
  • qd - Quaque Die (once a day)
  • qh - Quaque Hora (once every hour)
  • qhs - Quaque Hora Somni (every night at bedtime)
  • qid - Quater In Die (four times a day)
  • qod - Quaque Altera Die (every other day)
  • qpm - Quaque Post Meridiem (every evening)
  • RDI - Recommended Daily Intake
  • Rx - Recipe (prescription)
  • TAB - Tablet
  • TIW - Three Times a Week

Medical Orders and Procedure Abbreviations

When your doctor orders a test or procedure for you, they’ll probably use an abbreviation when speaking to a nurse or lab technician. Some of these abbreviations may include:

  • AA - Amino Acid
  • ABG - Arterial Blood Gas
  • AXR - Abdominal X-Ray
  • BAC - Blood Alcohol Content
  • BE - Barium Enema
  • BMT - Bone Marrow Transplant
  • Bx - Biopsy
  • CABG - Coronary Artery Bypass Graft
  • CBC - Complete Blood Count
  • CFT - Complement Fixation Testing
  • C/S - Cesarean Section
  • CXR - Chest X-Ray
  • ECC - Emergency Cardiac Care
  • ECG or EKG - Electrocardiogram
  • ECMO - Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation
  • ECT - Electroconvulsive Therapy
  • ECV - External Cephalic Version
  • FNA - Fine Needle Aspiration
  • FOBT - Fecal Occult Blood Testing
  • FSH - Follicle Stimulating Hormone
  • GLT - Glucose Loading Test
  • GTT - Glucose Tolerance Test
  • H20 - Water
  • HPA - Hypothalamic Suppression Test
  • I&D - Incision and Drainage
  • IUI - Intrauterine Insemination
  • IVF - In Vitro Fertilization
  • KUB - Kidney, Ureter, Bladder (x-ray)
  • OGTT - Oral Glucose Tolerance Test
  • PAP - Pulmonary Artery Pressure, Papanicolaou Test
  • PEEP - Positive end Expiratory Pressure
  • T&C - Type and Cross (blood)
  • TPA - Tissue Plasminogen Activator (dissolve clots), Total Parenteral Alimentation (intravenous nutritional needs)
  • UA - Urinalysis
  • US - Ultrasound
  • WB - Whole Blood
  • WBC - White Blood Cell
  • WNL - Within Normal Limits
  • XRT - External Radiation Therapy
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Abbreviations for Medical Diagnoses or Symptoms

Nothing is scarier than receiving a diagnosis that you don’t understand. Sort out the confusion and find your diagnosis here:

  • ADHD - Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
  • AIDS - Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome
  • ALS - Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's disease)
  • ARDS - Adult Respiratory Distress Syndrome
  • ARF - Acute Renal Failure, Acute Rheumatic Fever
  • BAD - Bipolar Affective Disorder
  • CA - Cancer
  • CAD - Coronary Artery Disease
  • CF - Cystic Fibrosis
  • C/F - Chills, Fever
  • CHD - Congenital Heart Disease
  • CHF - Congestive Heart Failure
  • COLD - Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease
  • COPD - Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
  • CP - Chest Pain
  • CP - Cerebral Palsy
  • DTR - Deep Tendon Reflex
  • DVT - Deep Venous Thrombosis
  • EBV - Epstein-Barr Virus
  • ECASA - Enteric Coated Acetylsalicylic Acid
  • EGC - Early Gastric Cancer
  • FAS - Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
  • F/C - Fever, Chills
  • HA - Headache, Hemolytic Anemia
  • HAV - Hepatitis A Virus
  • HBV - Hepatitis B Virus
  • HCV - Hepatitis C Virus
  • HDV - Hepatitis D Virus
  • HIV - Human Immunodeficiency Virus
  • HTN - Hypertension
  • IBD - Inflammatory Bowel Disease
  • IBS - Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome
  • ICP - Intracranial Pressure
  • IDDM - Insulin-Dependent Diabetes Mellitus
  • IPF - Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis
  • JRA - Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • JVD - Jugular Venous Distension
  • KS - Kaposi Sarcoma
  • LAD - Leukocyte Adhesion Deficiency
  • LBP - Lower Back Pain
  • LBW - Low Birth Weight
  • LIH - Left Inguinal Hernia
  • MD - Muscular Dystrophy
  • MS - Multiple Sclerosis
  • NIDDM - Non-Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus
  • OCD - Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
  • ON - Optic Neuritis
  • OSA - Obstructive Sleep Apnea
  • PCOS - Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
  • PD - Parkinson's Disease
  • PE - Pulmonary Embolism
  • PKD - Polycystic Kidney Disease
  • PID - Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
  • PIH - Pregnancy-Induced Hypertension
  • PMS - Premenstrual Syndrome
  • PTSD - Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • RA - Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • RAD - Reactive Airway Disease
  • RDS - Respiratory Distress Syndrome
  • RHD - Rheumatic Heart Disease
  • SAB - Spontaneous Abortion
  • SBO - Small Bowel Obstruction
  • SBS - Shaken Baby Syndrome
  • STD - Sexually Transmitted Disease
  • TAH - Total Abdominal Hysterectomy
  • TB - Tuberculosis
  • TBI - Traumatic Brain Injury
  • TGA - Transient Global Amnesia
  • UC - Ulcerative Colitis
  • URI - Upper Respiratory Infection
  • UTI - Urinary Tract Infection
  • VB - Vaginal Bleeding
  • VBAC - Vaginal Birth After Cesarean Section
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Medical Abbreviations for Body Parts

Doctors may not call your left ear by that name. Instead, they may use the abbreviation AS, along with a number of other body-related medical abbreviations.

  • ABD - Abdomen
  • AD - Auris Dextra (right ear)
  • AS - Auris Sinistra (left ear)
  • AU - Aures Unitas (both ears)
  • CBD - Common Bile Duct
  • LLL - Left Lower Lobe
  • LLQ - Left Lower Quadrant
  • LUL - Left Upper Lobe
  • LUQ - Left Upper Quadrant
  • LV - Left Ventricle
  • OD - Oculus Dexter (right eye)
  • OS - Oculus Sinister (left eye)
  • OU - Oculus Uterque (both eyes)
  • PNS - Peripheral Nervous System
  • RA - Right Atrium
  • RUL - Right Upper Lobe
  • RUQ - Right Upper Quadrant
  • RV - Right Ventricle, Residual Volume
  • UE - Upper Extremity

An Abbreviation a Day Keeps the Doctor Away

It's always advisable to consult with your doctor, nurse, pharmacist, or other medical professional about any and all medical terminology that's confusing or unclear. Only those within the medical field can truly decipher the multitude of abbreviations in the industry. If all this jargon has stirred up your interest, then try: