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Medical Terms


What Does That Mean?

Ever wonder what all those abbreviations the doctor uses actually mean?  Here’s a list of some common medical abbreviations with definition of terms and a helpful link for more information.

Common Medical Abbreviations and Their Meaning

BP – Blood Pressure

CBC – Complete Blood Count, a count of different types of blood cells 

CMP – Comprehensive Metabolic Panel, a set of tests that evaluate different parameters reflecting the status of things such as kidney function, blood sugar, sodium levels

CPR – CardioPulmonary Resuscitation, the procedure used to restart a person’s heart and/or breathing

Dietary – Dietician or Dietary as in a patient’s food and liquids intake. Often used in requesting consultations about a patient’s intake needs from an RD or Registered Dietician.

DNR  Do Not Resuscitate, the order which requires that no attempt be made to restart a person’s heart or breathing. Generally used by people with terminal illnesses or who are older and have chosen that as part of their end-of-life care.

EKG/ECG – Electrocardiogram, a test measuring the function of various areas of the heart.

ER – Emergency Room (also known as ED, Emergency Department)

HCT – hematocrit, a measure of the oxygen-carrying red blood cells in the body. Related to HgB.

HgB – hemoglobin, a measure of the oxygen-carrying red blood cells in the body. Related to HCT and more commonly discussed.

HR – Heart Rate, measured as beats per minute.

Hypertension – High blood pressure

Hypotension – Low blood pressure

Hyperthryoid – Overactive thyroid

Hypothyroid – Underactive thyroid

ICU – Intensive Care Unit, where patients who are very ill or recovering from extensive surgeries are cared for

NICU – neonatal Intensive Care Unit, that unit where newborns are cared for when they are very ill, premature, etc.

OR – Operating Room

PACU – Post-Anesthesia Care Unit, often called the recovery room, where patients stay immediately after surgery for close monitoring.

Pre-Op – PreOperative, that part of the surgery process in which the patient has their final consultation with the surgeon and is evaluated by medical professionals to determine whether they are fit for surgery.

Post-Op – see PACU

Psych – Psychiatry or Psychology, generally referring to consultation with a psychiatrist or that unit of a hospital providing inpatient psychiatric care.

PT/OT/SLP – Physical/Occupational/Speech Therapy

PulseOx – pulsometer device measuring pulse rate and the percentage of oxygen in the circulating blood. Often used to help decide whether supplemental oxygen is needed in the hospital.

Rx – Prescription for medications, physical or occupational therapy, certain tests (MRI for example) so the requested medication, therapy or test can be done.

Script – a term generally used as a quick way of referring to prescriptions for medications.

C-spine – Cervical Spine (C1 through C7 are the cervical spinal vertebrae)

T-spine – Thoracic Spine (T1 through T12 are the thoracic spinal vertebrae)

L-spine – Lumbar Spine (L1 through L5 are the lumbar spinal vertebrae)

Sacral spine – that section of the spine just above the coccyx (S1 through S5 are the sacral spinal vertebrae)

Coccyx – the tailbone.

STAT – immediately, used when tests need to be done and the results reported as soon as possible   

For definitions of other terms such as benign or malignant, Medline Plus has easy-to-understand lists of definitions by category.

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