Common Medical Abbreviations A - C

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  • 0:02 Medical Abbreviations
  • 0:49 Abbreviations starting with A
  • 4:53 Abbreviations Starting with B
  • 6:13 Abbreviations Starting with C
  • 9:00 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Adrianne Baron

Adrianne has taught high school and college biology and has a master's degree in cancer biology.

We will define the most commonly used abbreviations in medical terminology that begin with the letters A-C. We will also discuss how the abbreviations are used.

Medical Abbreviations

If you have spent any time looking at different medical terms and the many ways that they can be stringed together to give a diagnosis or describe something happening in the body, then you know there are some very lengthy medical phrases. Thank goodness it was determined that we should use abbreviations for some of the most common medical phrases to make communication quicker and, often times, easier.

Abbreviations are case sensitive, so it is important to note which letters are capital and which ones are lowercase. There are times when the same letters are used, but the meaning is different depending on the case of the different letters. We are going to look at the most common abbreviations that start with the letters A-C in this lesson. Let's get learning!

Abbreviations Starting with A

The first abbreviation is aa, which means 'of each.' This is used often to indicate what should happen with medications.

ac is the abbreviation for 'before meals.' This may tell that tests should be run before a person has meals or that medications should be taken before a meal.

The abbreviation for 'average daily dose' is ADD. This is for documentation of medications that are given over time.

'Activities of daily living' is abbreviated as ADL. The activities that this indicates are things like eating, going to the bathroom, showering, etc.

adm is short for 'admission.' You probably already realize that this is indicating that someone is admitted to the hospital.

ad lib is short for 'as much as desired.' This can be used to signify how often a person is able to do different activities, such as eating, driving, etc. It can also be used for medications if there isn't a set schedule for the medicine and overdosing isn't possible, like with gum-numbing agents.

The abbreviation for 'afebrile,' meaning 'without a fever,' is afeb. This abbreviation will likely show up in the notes from when a patient is first assessed in a doctor's office or hospital.

afib, or AF, are the abbreviated forms of 'atrial fibrillation.' This is used to diagnose when a person's atria are not contracting.

alt. h. indicates that something should be done every other hour. This is used to advise how often some medications should be given or when a patient should have a particular activity done for them such as turning or walking.

The abbreviation am is one you already know, and it carries the same meaning in medical terminology as it does in general. It means 'morning' or 'before noon.'

AMA is used to indicate that a patient did something against medical advice. This is most commonly seen when a person leaves a hospital before being discharged or doesn't get tests or treatments that they were advised to receive.

amb means 'ambulatory,' which describes that someone is able to walk.

The abbreviation amp is used for 'ampule.' This is used to let someone know that the medication is given from an ampule, which is already a set dose.

amt is an abbreviation that you may have used before in your life, and it means 'amount.' Amt is used often in writing prescriptions or giving directions for patient care.

Water is abbreviated as aq, which is short for the word 'aqueous.' Aq is used for explaining how medication should be taken or what it should be mixed with.

ax is the abbreviation for 'axillary,' meaning 'under the arm or armpit.' Most times, this is used to tell where temperature was taken on a patient, especially in children.

Abbreviations Starting with B

Okay, now that 'A' is out of the way, let's take a look at some of the common 'B' abbreviations.

The abbreviation for 'twice a day' is bid. This is mostly used to let someone know how often to take medication or do some type of activity.

BM is the abbreviation for 'bowel movement.' Healthcare professionals use BM to explain how often or when a patient had a bowel movement.

BMR is short for 'basal metabolic rate,' which is used when determining how much energy a person is using while they are at rest doing nothing.

The abbreviation BP may be one that looks familiar to you. BP is short for 'blood pressure.' This is used in a patient's chart for the purpose of recording the blood pressure.

BPH is the abbreviated form of 'benign prostatic hypertrophy.' The abbreviation is used as a diagnosis for a man that has an enlarged prostate that is not cancerous.

Another abbreviation is BUN, which is a test for blood urea nitrogen. The test indicates the amount of by-products in the blood from the breakdown of protein.

BV is used to indicate the blood volume. This will normally appear when describing the amount of blood in the body.

Abbreviations Starting with C

Finally, we'll move to the 'C' abbreviations.

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