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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

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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 filling out the form on this page to download a copy of our PDF flashcards below.


  • 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]


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

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


  • 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]


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

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


  • ESRD: End stage renal disease

[Learn more: Caring for the dialysis patient]


  • FAS: Fetal alcohol syndrome
  • Fx: Fracture

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


  • GERD: Gastroesophageal reflux

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


  • HTN: Hypertension

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


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

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


  • JVD: Jugular vein distension

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


  • KA: Ketoacidosis

[Learn more: Understanding the presentation of diabetic ketoacidosis]


  • 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]


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

[Learn more: Listen – Thinking about abdominal pain]


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

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


  • 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]


  • QRNG: Quinolone-resistant Neisseria gonorrhoeae

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


  • 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]


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

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


  • 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]


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

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


  • VSD: Ventricular septal defect
  • VT: Ventricular tachycardia

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


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

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


  • XRT: Radiotherapy

[Learn more: When EMS meets hospice]


  • YST: Yolk sac tumor

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


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

[Learn more: Understanding pain in the abdominal quadrants]

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

This article, originally published in November 2022, has been updated.

Rachel Engel is an award-winning journalist and the senior editor of and In addition to her regular editing duties, Engel seeks to tell the heroic, human stories of first responders and the importance of their work. She earned her bachelor’s degree in communications from Cameron University in Lawton, Oklahoma, and began her career as a freelance writer, focusing on government and military issues. Engel joined Lexipol in 2015 and has since reported on issues related to public safety. Engel lives in Wichita, Kansas. She can be reached via email.