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List of medical abbreviations

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). Certain medical abbreviations are avoided to prevent mistakes, according to best practices (and in some cases regulatory requirements); these are flagged in the list of abbreviations used in medical prescriptions.

Orthographic styling

Periods (stops)

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

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


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

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


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.

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.
  • This list uses significant capitalization for headwords (the abbreviations) and their expansions.

See also


  • Movshovitz-Attias, Dana; Cohen, William W. (2012). Alignment-HMM-based Extraction of Abbreviations from Biomedical Text. Montreal, Canada: NAACL.  [1].
  • Davis, Neil M. (2014). Medical Abbreviations: 32,000 Conveniences at the Expense of Communication and Safety (15th ed.). Warminster, PA, USA: Neil M Davis Associates. ISBN 978-0-931431-15-9.  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. 

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