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Common Medical Terms and Abbreviations

Medical Author: William C. Shiel, Jr, MD, FACP, FACR
Medical Author: Jay W. Marks, MD

Wondering why you can't read what the doctor wrote on your prescription? Ever see the doctor's notes in your medical record and found peculiar abbreviations and jargon? Doctors commonly use a variety of abbreviations in order to rapidly and succinctly record information about, and give instructions to, their patients. Below is a listing of many common terms and abbreviations defined so that you can decipher those charts!


A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


a.c.: Before meals. As in taking a medicine before meals.

a/g ratio: Albumin to globulin ratio.

ACL: Anterior cruciate ligament. ACL injuries are one of the most common ligament injuries to the knee. The ACL can be sprained or completely torn from trauma and/or degeneration.

Ad lib: At liberty. For example, a patient may be permitted to move out of bed freely and orders would, therefore, be for activities to be ad lib.

AKA: Above the knee amputation.

Anuric: Not producing urine. A person who is anuric is often critical and may require dialysis.


b.i.d.: Twice daily. As in taking a medicine twice daily.

Bandemia: Slang for elevated level of band forms of white blood cells.

Bibasilar: At the bases of both lungs. For example, someone with a pneumonia in both lungs might have abnormal bibasilar breath sounds.

BKA: Below the knee amputation.

BMP: Basic metabolic panel. Electrolytes (potassium, sodium, carbon dioxide, and chloride) and creatinine and glucose.

BP: Blood pressure. Blood pressure is recorded as part of the physical examination. It is one of the "vital signs."

BSO: Bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy. A BSO is the removal of both of the ovaries and adjacent Fallopian tubes and often is performed as part of a total abdominal hysterectomy.


C&S: Culture and sensitivity, performed to detect infection.

C/O: Complaint of. The patient's expressed concern.

cap: Capsule.

CBC: Complete blood count.

CC: Chief complaint. The patient's main concern.

cc: Cubic centimeters. For example, the amount of fluid removed from the body is recorded in ccs.

Chem panel: Chemistry panel. A comprehensive screening blood test that indicates the status of the liver, kidneys, and electrolytes.

COPD: Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

CVA: Cerebrovascular accident (Stroke).


D/C or DC: Discontinue or discharge. For example, a doctor will D/C a drug. Alternatively, the doctor might DC a patient from the hospital.

DDX: Differential diagnosis The variety diagnostic possibilities being considered.

DM: Diabetes mellitus.

DNC, D&C, or D and C: Dilation and curettage. Widening the cervix and scrapping with a curette for the purpose of removing tissue lining the inner surface of the womb (uterus).

DNR: Do not resuscitate. This is a specific order not to revive a patient artificially if they succumb to illness. If a patient is given a DNR order, they are not resuscitated if they are near death and no code blue is called.


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Medical Dictionary