The ABCs of common medical abbreviations

Are you fluent in medical shorthand? Check out this list of abbreviations and download a copy of PDF flashcards to test yourself


Time is of the essence in emergency medicine, and anywhere you can grab a few extra seconds is welcome. We’ve compiled a list of the most common (and some not-so-common!) medical abbreviations, according to Hawaii Pacific University, Madison Memorial Hospital in Idaho and Illinois State University

Were you aware of these shorthand diagnoses? Continue your training by downloading a copy of our PDF flashcards below.


A

  • AF: Atrial fibrillation
  • AFR: Acute renal failure
  • AKI: Acute kidney injury
  • ARDS: Acute respiratory distress syndrome
  • AUS: Abdominal ultrasound

[Learn more: Acute kidney injury assessment and treatment]


B

  • BKA: Below-the-knee amputation
  • BPD: Bronchopulmonary dysplasia
  • BRA: Bilateral renal agenesis

[Learn more: Is your rescue team prepared for a field amputation?]


C

  • CAD: Coronary artery disease
  • CHD: Congenital heart disease or defect
  • CHF: Congestive heart failure
  • CMV: Cytomegalovirus
  • COA: Coarctation of the aorta
  • COPD: Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

[Learn more: Back to the basics – CHF vs. chronic bronchitis]


D

  • DJD: Degenerative joint disease
  • DM2: Diabetes mellitus type 2
  • DVT: Deep vein thrombosis

[Learn more: Drunk versus diabetes; how can you tell?]


E

  • ESRD: End stage renal disease

[Learn more: Caring for the dialysis patient]


F

  • FAS: Fetal alcohol syndrome
  • Fx: Fracture

[Learn more: What are the benefits, risks of binding a pelvic fracture?]


G

  • GERD: Gastroesophageal reflux

[Learn more: 5 other considerations when treating a chest pain patient]


H

  • HTN: Hypertension

[Learn more: 5 errors that are giving you incorrect blood pressure readings]


I

  • IBS: Irritable bowel syndrome
  • IIH: Indirect inguinal hernia
  • IPF: Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis

[Learn more: 5 GI emergencies EMTs, paramedics should know]


J

  • JVD: Jugular vein distension

[Learn more: Veinity Fair – Evaluating jugular venous distension]


K

  • KA: Ketoacidosis

[Learn more: Understanding the presentation of diabetic ketoacidosis]


L

  • LOC: Loss of consciousness
  • LGA: Large for gestational age
  • LTB: Laryngotracheo bronchitis
  • LBW: Low birth weight
  • LE: Lupus erythemoatosus

[Learn more: Use AVPU scale to determine a patient's level of consciousness]


M

  • MI: Myocardial infarction
  • MMR: Measles, mumps, rubella
  • MRSA: Methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus
  • MSUD: Maple syrup urine disease

[Learn more: How to control the spread of MRSA]


N

  • N/V: Nausea or vomiting
  • NEC: Necrotizing enterocolitis
  • NTD: Neural tube defect
  • NRT: Nicotine replacement therapy

[Learn more: Listen – Thinking about abdominal pain]


O

  • OA: Osteoarthritis
  • OAB: Overactive bladder
  • OD: Overdose
  • OSA: Obstructive sleep apnea

[Learn more: Opioid overdose – Fact vs. fiction]


P

  • PAC: Premature atrial contraction
  • PAF: Paroxysmal atrial fibrillation
  • PE: Pulmonary embolism
  • PIE: Pulmonary interstitial emphysema
  • PIH: Pregnancy-induced hypertension
  • PIP: Peak inspiratory pressure
  • PPHN: Persistent pulmonary hypertension
  • PPS: Peripheral pulmonic stenosis
  • PVC: Premature ventricular contraction
  • PVD: Peripheral vascular disease

[Learn more: 4 things EMS providers need to know about pulmonary embolism]


Q

  • QRNG: Quinolone-resistant Neisseria gonorrhoeae

[Learn more: Role of EMS in preventing infectious disease transmission]


R

  • RA: Rheumatoid arthritis
  • RD: Retinal detachment
  • RDS: Respiratory distress syndrome
  • RF: Renal failure
  • RLS: Restless leg syndrome

[Learn more: 5 things to know about capnography and respiratory distress]


S

  • SCI: Spinal cord injury
  • SSS: Sick sinus syndrome
  • ST: Sinus tachycardia
  • SVT: Supraventricular tachycardia

[Learn more: How to assess and manage spinal cord injury]


T

  • TAPVR: Total anomalous pulmonary venous return
  • TB: Tuberculosis
  • TBI: Traumatic brain injury
  • TIA: Transient ischemic attack

[Learn more: Traumatic brain injury – 10 things you need to know to save lives]


U

  • URI: Upper respiratory infection
  • UTI: Urinary tract infection

[Learn more: 8 questions for critical respiratory compromise patients]


V

  • VSD: Ventricular septal defect
  • VT: Ventricular tachycardia

[Learn more: A prehospital approach to refractory ventricular fibrillation]


W

  • WNL: Within normal limits
  • WBC: White blood count

[Learn more: White Knights – Why white blood cells reign]


X

  • XRT: Radiotherapy

[Learn more: When EMS meets hospice]


Y

  • YST: Yolk sac tumor

[Learn more: What medics should know about ectopic pregnancies]


Z

  • ZD: Zinc deficiency
  • ZES: Zollinger-Ellison syndrome

[Learn more: Understanding pain in the abdominal quadrants]


Want some extra practice? Fill out the form below to download a set of flashcard PDFs you can use to test your knowledge. 

DOWNLOAD NOW: 'ABCs of medical abbreviations' flashcards

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