Common Medical Abbreviations Every Medical Assistant Should Know

Why is Knowing Medical Abbreviations Important?

Medical assistants play a crucial role in the healthcare system. They often serve a vital role in both clinical and administrative functions, including insurance communications and billing. To fulfill these duties, medical assistants need to understand the language, terminology, and common abbreviations. A medical assistant must also be able to use these tools during tasks related to the medical conditions with which they deal on a daily basis.

Clinical acronyms and abbreviations can be grouped together in several categories, including medical, insurance-related, and healthcare delivery terms. The following list represents the most common medical abbreviations—the ones that a medical assistant should be comfortable reading and using in written material on the job.

Important Notes

  • Be careful whether upper or lowercase letters are used in these. You’ll see that two acronyms may use the same letters, but mean vastly different things—one is capitalized and the other is not.

  • Other letter combinations may be exactly alike, yet represent two different terms. In that case, you’ll need to rely on the context in which they are used to determine the meaning.

  • You can find free practice for any medical assistant test at Union Test Prep.

ABG— arterial blood gas
ACL— anterior cruciate ligament
AD— pertaining to the right ear
ADHD— attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
A.Fib— atrial fibrillation
ALS— amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
AMA— against medical advice
A/P— anterior-posterior
AROM— active range of motion
AS— pertaining to the left ear
AU— pertaining to both ears
A&O— alert and oriented

BID— twice a day
BLBS— bilateral breath sounds
bm— bowel movement or bone marrow
BMR— basal metabolism rate
BP— blood pressure
BR— bed rest
bs— bowel sounds or breath sounds
B/S— bedside
bx— biopsy

C— Celsius
C1, C2, etc.— first cervical vertebrae, second, etc.
CA— cardiac arrest
CABG— coronary artery bypass graft
CAD— coronary artery disease
cal— calorie
cath— catheter
CBC— complete blood count
cc— cubic centimeter
CCU— coronary care unit
CHF— congestive heart failure
CHI— closed head injury
CNA— certified nursing assistant
CNS— central nervous system
c/o— complains of
COPD— chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
CP— chest pain
CPAP— continuous positive airway pressure
CPE— complete physical exam
CPR— cardiopulmonary resuscitation
CRF— chronic renal failure
CSF— cerebrospinal fluid
CT— computerized tomography
CV— cardiovascular
CXR— chest X-ray

DC— discharge or discontinue
DNR— do not resuscitate
DOA— dead on arrival
DOB— date of birth
d/t— due to
Dx— diagnosis

ECC/EKG— electrocardiogram
ED— emergency department
EEG— electroencephalogram
EENT— eye, ear, nose, throat
EMG— electromyogram
ENT— ear, nose, throat
ER— emergency room

F— Fahrenheit
FH— family history
fib— fibrillation
fl/fld— fluid
f/u— follow-up
FWB— full weight bearing
Fx— fracture

GB— gallbladder
GCS— Glasgow Coma Scale
GERD— gastroesophageal reflux disease
gen— general
gest— gestation
GI— gastrointestinal
gluc— glucose
GP— general practitioner
GSW— gunshot wound
GTT— glucose tolerance test
GYN— gynecology

Hb.— hemoglobin
HB— heart block
HBP— high blood pressure
h.d.— at bedtime
H2O— water
H&H—hemoglobin and hematocrit
h/o— history of
H&P— history and physical
HR— heart rate
HTN— hypertension
HVD— hypertensive vascular disease
Hx— history

ICCU— intensive coronary care unit
ICP— intracranial pressure
ICU— intensive care unit
Int— internal
IM— intramuscular
I&O— intake and output
IV— intravenous

JP— Jackson-Pratt drain
jt— joint

K— potassium
KUB— kidney, ureters, bladder

L— left, liver, liter, lower, lumbar
L1, L2, L3— first lower lumbar vertebrae, etc.
lab— laboratory
lac— laceration
lat— lateral
LE— lower extremities
LL— left lateral
LMP— last menstrual period
LOC— loss of consciousness, level of consciousness
LOS— length of stay
LP— lumbar puncture
Lx— larynx

m— married, male, murmur, mass
MCA— middle cerebral artery
MD— muscular dystrophy
med.— medicine
mets.— metastasis
MG— myasthenia gravis
MI— myocardial infarction
MICU— medical intensive care unit
MRI— magnetic resonance imaging
MRSA— methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus
MVA— motor vehicle accident

Na— sodium
NAD— no abnormality detected, no apparent distress
NC— nasal cannula
NG— nasogastric
NICU— neonatal intensive care unit
NKA/NKDA— non-known drug allergies
NOS— not otherwise specified
NPO— nothing by mouth
NSA— no specific abnormality
NST— non-stress test
N&V— nausea and vomiting
NVD— nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
NYD— not yet diagnosed

O— oral
O2— oxygen
O2 sat— oxygen saturation
OA— osteoarthritis
OD— right eye
O/E— on exam
OR— operating room
OS— left eye or mouth
OTC— over-the-counter
OTO— otolaryngology
OU— both eyes

PA— physician’s assistant
PACU— post-anesthesia care unit
PAF— paroxysmal atrial fibrillation
PAL— peripheral arterial line
Path— pathology
PCA— patient controlled analgesia
PE— physical exam
PED— pediatrics
PET— positron emission tomography
PH— past history
PI— present illness, pulmonary insufficiency
PICC— peripherally inserted central catheter
PICU— pediatric intensive care unit, pulmonary intensive care unit
PID— pelvic inflammatory disease
PM— post-mortem
PMH— past medical history
PNI— peripheral nerve injury
PNX— pneumothorax
PRBC— packed red blood cells
PROM— passive range of motion
PSH— post-surgical history
PT— physical therapy
PTA— prior to admission
PUD— peptic ulcer disease
PVD— peripheral vascular disease
Px— physical examination

RA— right atrium, rheumatoid arthritis
RBC— red blood cell count
RCA— right coronary artery
RD— respiratory distress
RN— registered nurse
R/O— rule out
ROM— range of motion
RT— radiation therapy, respiratory therapy
RV— residual volume
Rx— prescription, therapy

q— every
qhr— every hour
qid— four times per day

SCD— sudden cardiac death
SCI— spinal cord injury
SCU— special care unit
SH— social history
SI— stroke index
SICU— surgical intensive care unit
SIDS— sudden infant death syndrome
SOB— shortness of breath
ST— speech therapy
STAT— immediately
STD— sexually transmitted disease
Strep— streptococcus
Sx— symptoms

T1, T2, etc.— thoracic vertebrae
TB— tuberculosis
TBI— traumatic brain injury
T&C— type and cross
TIA— transient ischemic attack
TID— three times a day
TMT— tarsal and metatarsal bones
TPN— total parenteral nutrition
TPR— temperature, pulse, respiration
Tx— treatment

U/A— urinalysis
UO— urinary output
URD— upper respiratory disease
URI— upper respiratory infection
UTI— urinary tract infection

VF— ventricular fibrillation
VS— vital signs

WBAT— weight bearing as tolerated
WNL— within normal limits
wt— weight
w/o— without
w/u— workup

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