List of medical abbreviations

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

Periods (stops)

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


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


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


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").

Some common medical abbreviations

Notation conventions

EG abb EG full name Other
(ver change, need to know...etc.)
ABG arterial blood gas
ACE angiotensin-converting enzyme
ACTH adrenocorticotropic hormone
ADH antidiuretic hormone
AIDS acquired immunodeficiency syndrome
ALT alanine aminotransferase  old version is SGPT
AST aspartate aminotransferase  old version is SGOT
ATP adenosine triphosphate
BCG bacille Calmette-Guérin
bid 2 times a day
BMR basal metabolic rate
BP blood pressure
BSA body surface area
BUN blood urea nitrogen
BR bedside rounds
BPD borderline personality disorder
C Celsius; centigrade; complement
Ca calcium
cAMP cyclic adenosine monophosphate
CBC complete blood count
cGy centigray
Ci curie
CK creatine kinase
Cl chloride; chlorine
cm centimeter
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 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
ENT ear nose and throat
ERCP endoscopic retrogradecholangiopancreatography
ESR erythrocyte sedimentation rate
F Fahrenheit
FDA U.S. Food and Drug Administration
Ft foot; feet measure unit
FUO fever of unknown origin
G gram
GFR glomerular filtration rate
GI gastrointestinal
GVHD Graft-versus-host disease
G6PD glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase
GU genitourinary
Gy gray
H hour
Hb hemoglobin
HCl hydrochloric acid; hydrochloride
HCO3 bicarbonate
Hct hematocrit
Hg mercury
HIV human immunodeficiency virus
HLA human leukocyte antigen
HMG-CoA hydroxymethyl glutaryl coenzyme A
Hz hertz  cycles/second unit
hs at bedtime 
ICF intracellular fluid
ICU intensive care unit
IgA etc. immunoglobin 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 mean food calorie
kg kilogram
L liter
lb pound
LDH lactic dehydrogenase
M molar
m meter
MCH mean corpuscular hemoglobin
MCHC mean corpuscular hemoglobin concentration
mCi millicurie
MCV mean corpuscular volume
mEq Milliequivalent
Mg magnesium
mg milligram
MI myocardial infarction
MIC minimum inhibitory concentration
mIU milli-international unit
mL milliliter
mm millimeter
mmol millimole
mo month
mol wt molecular weight
mOsm Milliosmole
MRI magnetic resonance imaging
N nitrogen; normal unit to measure strength of solution
Na sodium
NaCl sodium chloride
ng nanogram  also name as millimicrogram
nm nanometer  also name as millimicron
nmol nanomole
Npo nothing by mouth
NSAID nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug
O2 oxygen
OTC over-the-counter  pharmaceuticals
oz ounce
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 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
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)
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
STS serologic test(s) for syphilis
TB tuberculosis
tid 3 times a day
TPN total parenteral nutrition
URI upper respiratory infection
UTI urinary tract infection
WBC white blood cell
WHO World Health Organization
wt weight
μ micro-; micron
μCi microcurie
μg microgram
μL microliter
μm micrometer  also name micron
μmol micromole
μOsm micro-osmole
millimicron  also name nanometer

See also


  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. The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy, 28th Ed., page xi, Merck Research Laboratories, Whitehouse Station, NJ, 2006
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