Common Pharmacological Administration Abbreviations

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  • 0:10 Overview of…
  • 0:58 Abbreviations for…
  • 3:05 Abbreviations for Injections
  • 3:53 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Adrianne Baron

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

This lesson is going to cover some of the common abbreviations used to communicate how to administer medications. We will look at how they are used and what they mean.

Pharmacological Abbreviations

Think about how much text is included in the average written prescription. Now think about how long prescriptions would be if abbreviations were not being used. That would be very overwhelming for physicians to write and pharmacists to read.

Thank goodness abbreviations were made to help communicate information about medications. There is even an abbreviation for prescription. Rx probably looks familiar to you since it is used in the signs of many pharmacies. It means 'prescription' or 'treatment.' The abbreviation comes from the Latin word recipe.

sig is something that you may have seen on your prescription before as well. It means 'write on label.' Whatever is written next to it is to be written on the label of the bottle.

We are going to discuss the common pharmacological abbreviations that are used to indicate how medications should be administered.

Abbreviations for Non-Injection Administration

The first abbreviation is aa, which means 'of each.' This is used often to indicate what should happen with medications such as being given one of each pill.

Prescriptions may designate when or how something should be taken or done. c is the one-letter abbreviation for 'with,' and it is often used to explain that a medication should be taken with something, such as water, milk, food, etc. The c may also appear with a line over it, but it has the same meaning.

ac is the abbreviation for 'before meals,' indicating that patients should take the medication before a meal. pc means 'after meals.'

A set of doctor's orders may include the abbreviation npo, meaning 'nothing per oral,' or more commonly, 'nothing by mouth.' This informs other healthcare professionals that a patient should not take medication or ingest anything through the mouth.

AD is the abbreviation for 'right ear,' and AS means 'left ear.' AU refers to 'both ears,' Healthcare professionals use these abbreviations to let someone know that the medication should be given in the right, left or both ears, respectively. Keep in mind that the right and left are based on the patient's right and left and not on your right and left as you look at the patient.

The abbreviation OD can mean one of two things, and you will have to determine the meaning based on how it is used. It could mean 'right eye,' for where medication should be given, or it could mean 'overdose.' OS means 'left eye.' The abbreviation for 'both eyes' is OU.

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