Almost every profession has a language mixed with abbreviations and acronyms that is uniquely theirs. Medicine is filled with confusing terms and abbreviations that are often difficult to interpret. It is important to understand what your provider means when he/she uses terms that you do not understand. Below are some common medical abbreviations and acronyms.

One of the most important things you can do when talking with your provider

is to ask questions when you do not understand!

  • ADA- American Diabetes Association, or can also mean Americans with Disabilities Act
  • AED- Automated External Defibrillator- used by many paramedics and fire departments to start the heart when doing CPR
  • AMA- against medical advice. This typically refers to doing something (like leaving the hospital) against the advice of the provider.
  • BID- two times per day (the provider may write to take Tylenol BID or twice daily)
  • BP= blood pressure
  • CPR- cardio pulmonary resuscitation- chest compressions and passive breathing when a person has a heart attack
  • DO- Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine
  • ED- Emergency Department, or Emergency Room
  • ESI- Epidural Steroid Injection- this is a procedure in which medications such as steroid and a numbing medicine is injected into the back or neck for pain control.
  • ETOH- drinking alcohol- such as beer, whiskey, vodka. It is imperative that your health care provider knows what and how much ETOH you drink
  • FMS- fibromyalgia syndrome
  • GI- gastrointestinal- refers to the stomach/intestine/bowel/gallbladder
  • HR- heart rate or pulse
  • LP- Lumbar Puncture- procedure that involves a needle puncture in the low back to draw spinal fluid
  • MA- Medical Assistant (or Medical Office Assistant)- generally works in the office and helps with vital signs and updating medication lists. An MA cannot give out medical advice unless specifically instructed to do so by a provider.
  • MD- Medical Doctor. This is the degree most physicians will complete.
  • Meds- medications. It is important to carry a current list of all medications you take regularly, including the dose
  • MI- myocardial infarct- or heart attack
  • MVI- multivitamin
  • NPO- nothing by mouth. This is typically recommended by the provider before surgery or procedures.
  • PCA- patient controlled analgesia- this is a machine that is used after many surgeries for control of pain. The patient can push the button on the machine and administer their own dose of pain medications.
  • PCP- primary care provider- this is the provider who manages your general health
  • PO- by mouth. Often written as “take 2 tablets po”.
  • RN- Registered Nurse. This is a health care professional with a college degree and a license to practice nursing.
  • SOB- shortness of breath- used to describe someone who appears to have difficulty breathing.
  • TIA- Transient Ischemic Attack- this is typically a brief episode that can lead to a stroke if untreated.
  • TID- Three times per day- the prescriber may write to take ibuprofen three times per day.
  • UA- urinalysis
  • UTI- urinary tract infection

If you don’t understand what your provider is saying—ASK!