List of medical abbreviations

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This is the overview for the medical abbreviations series.

This list is far from complete; you can help by expanding it. Comprehensive reference books of medical abbreviations are available in bookstores and libraries. (See the bibliography for some suggested titles.)

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 crypticness (making the communication harder for others to understand) and ambiguity (having more than one possible interpretation). In other words, a smart communicator uses good shortcuts, but makes sure that other people will understand what he means. Certain medical abbreviations should be avoided to prevent mistakes.


[edit] Orthographic styling

[edit] Periods (stops)

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

  • Example:
    • Less common: The diagnosis was C.O.P.D.
          [chronic obstructive pulmonary disease]
    • More common: The diagnosis was COPD.

[edit] Plurals

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

  • Example: one OCP, two OCPs  [oral contraceptive pills].

[edit] Possessives

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

  • Example:
    • BP's effect on risk of MI is multifaceted.
    • The effect of BP on MI risk is multifaceted.

[edit] Conventions of this series

  • This series of lists omits periods from acronyms and initialisms.
  • It uses periods for certain abbreviations that traditionally often have them (mostly older Latin/Neo-Latin abbreviations). For example, both bid and b.i.d. may be found in the list.
  • It generally uses the singular form of an abbreviation (not the plural) as the headword.

[edit] For more information on styling

The short summaries above are all that most readers will need in using this list. Interested readers can find much more detail in the main articles on abbreviations and acronyms and initialisms. For more information, see:

[edit] See also

[edit] Bibliography

  • Davis, Neil M. (2008). Medical Abbreviations: 30,000 Conveniences at the Expense of Communication and Safety (14th ed.). Warminster, PA, USA: Neil M Davis Associates. ISBN 978-0-931431-14-2.  Available online (by subscription) at
  • Jablonski, Stanley (2008). Jablonski's Dictionary of Medical Acronyms and Abbreviations with CD-ROM (6th ed.). Philadelphia: Saunders. ISBN 978-1-4160-5899-1. 
  • Sloane, Sheila B. (1997). Medical Abbreviations & Eponyms (2nd ed.). Philadelphia: Saunders. ISBN 978-0-7216-7088-1. 

[edit] External links

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