“brb, ttyl ok? Wow, I saved a ‘ton’ of time with those acronyms.” – Stephen Colbert

Acronyms are abbreviations formed from the initial components in a phrase or a word. These are usually presented are individual letters. These acronyms are very commonplace in medicine, and many of them are entirely unique to the medical world. They add a further layer of complexity to medical language, and to cause further confusion, some of them are derived from Latin. There is often an appendix added to exam papers with a list of acronyms that may be encountered in the exam and what they stand for. In this chapter, I provide a table of some of the commonest acronyms that you are likely to encounter in your medical exams. I hope that you find it a helpful reference tool.


AAAAbdominal aortic aneurysm
ABGArterial blood gas
ACEAngiotensin-converting enzyme
ACLAnterior cruciate ligament
ACJAcromio-clavicular joint
ADHAnti-diuretic hormone
ADHDAttention deficit hyperactivity disorder
AFAtrial fibrillation
AIDSAcquired immune deficiency syndrome
ALPAlkaline phosphatase
ALSAmyotrophic lateral sclerosis
ALTAlanine aminotransferase
AMDAge-related macular degeneration
ASTAspartate aminotransferase
AVMAterio-venous malformation
AXRAbdominal X-ray
bid/bd‘bis die’ in Latin. It means to take twice daily.
bds‘bis die sumendum’. Twice daily (as above).
BMIBody mass index
BPBlood pressure
BPHBenign prostatic hyperplasia
BRCABreast cancer gene
BUNBlood urea nitrogen
CABGCoronary artery bypass graft
CADCoronary artery disease
CCFCongestive cardiac failure
CDControlled drug
cf‘confer’ in Latin. Means to compare to.
CFCystic fibrosis
CHDCoronary heart disease or congenital heart disease
CHFCongestive heart failure
CK / CPKCreatine kinase / creatine phosphokinase
CNSCentral nervous system
COPDChronic obstructive pulmonary disease
CPRCardiopulmonary resuscitation
CRFChronic renal failure
CRPC-reactive protein
CSFCerebrospinal fluid
CSTContinue same treatment
CTComputerized tomography
CVACerebrovascular accident
C-spineCervical spine
CXRChest X-ray
D&CDilatation and curettage
DIBDifficulty in Breathing
DICDisseminated intravascular coagulation
DMDiabetes mellitus
DVTDeep vein thrombosis
DWDistilled water
ENTEar, nose and throat
ERCPEndoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography
ESRErythrocyte sedimentation rate
ESRDEnd-stage renal disease
et‘et’ in Latin means 'and'
FSHFollicle-stimulating hormone
GITGastro-intestinal tract
GFRGlomerular filtration rate
GORD/GERDGastroesophageal reflux disease
HAVHepatitis A virus
HBVHepatitis B virus
HCVHepatitis C virus
HDLHigh-density lipoprotein
HIVHuman immunodeficiency virus
HRTHormone replacement therapy
hs‘hora somni’’ in Latin means at bedtime
IBDInflammatory bowel disease
IBSIrritable bowel syndrome
ICDImplantable cardioverter defibrillator
ICPIntracranial pressure
ICUIntensive care unit
IDDMInsulin-dependant diabetes mellitus
INRInternational normalized ratio
IUInternational unit
IUDIntra-uterine device
IVPIntravenous pyelogram
IVUIntravenous urogram
JVPJugular venous pressure
LDLLow-density lipoprotein
LFTLiver function test
LMNLower motor neurone
LPLumbar puncture
LVFLeft ventricular failure
LVHLeft ventricular hypertrophy
mane‘mane’ in Latin means early or early in morning
mdu‘more dicto utendus’ in Latin means at bedtime
MIMyocardial infarction
mitte‘mitte’ in Latin means to send
MMRMeasles, mumps and rubella (vaccination)
MRIMagnetic resonance imaging
MRSAMethicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus
MSMultiple sclerosis
NIDDMNon-insulin-dependant diabetes mellitus
NKDANo known drug allergies
note‘nocte’ in Latin means at night
NSNormal saline
NSAIDNon-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug
OCDObsessive-compulsive disorder
od‘omne in die’ in Latin means every day
om‘omne mane’ in Latin means every morning
on‘omne nocte’ in Latin means every night
OPDOutpatient department
PADPeripheral arterial disease
PETPositron emission tomography
PFTPulmonary function test
PIDPelvic inflammatory disease
PMSPremenstrual syndrome
PR‘per rectum’ in Latin means via the rectum
po‘per os’ in Latin means by mouth or orally
prn‘pro re nata’ in Latin means as needed
PSAProstate-specific antigen
PTProthrombin time
PTHParathyroid hormone
PTSDPost-traumatic stress disorder
PTTPartial thromboplastin time
PUDPeptic ulcer disease
PV‘per vaginum’ in Latin means via the vagina
PVCPremature ventricular contraction
PVDPeripheral vascular disease
qd‘quaque die’ in Latin means every day
qds‘quater die sumendus’ in Latin means four times a day
qid‘quater in die’ in Latin means four times a day
qqh‘quater quaque hora’ in Latin means every four hours
RARheumatoid arthritis
RBCRed blood cell
RxTreatment or prescription - derived from the Latin ‘recipe’
SADSeasonal affective disorder
SIDSSudden infant death syndrome
sig‘signa’ in Latin means directions
SLESystemic lupus erythematosus
SOBShortness of breath
stat‘statim’ in Latin means immediately or without delay
STDSexually transmitted disease
STISexually transmitted infection
TAHTotal abdominal hysterectomy
tds‘ter die sumendum’ in Latin means three times a day
TFTThyroid function test
TIATransient ischemic attack
TIBCTotal iron-binding capacity
tid‘ter in die’ in Latin means three times a day
TMJTemporo-mandibular joint
TSHThyroid-stimulating hormone
TURPTransurethral resection of the prostate gland
UMNUpper motor neurone
ung‘unguentum’ in Latin means ointment
URTIUpper respiratory tract infection
USSUltrasound scan
ut/ ud‘ut dictum’ in Latin means as directed
UTIUrinary tract infection
WBCWhite blood cell
WCCWhite cell count


Key points to remember:

✅ Abbreviations are very commonly used in medicine

✅ Acronyms are abbreviations formed from the initial components in a phrase or a word

✅ Familiarise yourself with the acronyms and abbreviations in the above table to make sure you are not caught out in the exam



Header image used on licence from Shutterstock


Medical Exam Prep would like to thank Dr. Marc Barton for permission to reproduce this extract from his book ‘How to Pass Medical Exams: A Survival Guide for Medical Students and Doctors’


About Dr. Marc Barton

Dr. Marc Barton qualified from Imperial College School of Medicine in 2001. Since that time he has worked in a variety of different medical specialities. He worked as a GP partner from 2006 until 2008 and more recently as a higher specialist trainee in Emergency Medicine.

‘How to Pass Medical Exams’ is available for purchase here.