Complete List of Medical Abbreviations and Acronyms

"He had CP and SOB, was diagnosed w NSTEMI, had a PCI and is now in MICU."

Whether you like or not, medical jargon is part of health care. Years ago, before I started my clinical rotations, I assembled a comprehensive list of all medical abbreviations I could find and memorized them by heart. It may sound strange but I actually liked using them. Also, for a short while, I was known as the "mnemonics guy" since (due to lack of other ideas how to better spend my time) I had made up about 800 mnemonics. Abbreviations and acronyms are sort of mnemonics, they save time and... create confusion. Pretty much everybody who works in health care knows CHF and COPD but how about AOCD (anemia of chronic disease)?

When I started (an online case-based curriculum of clinical medicine), I deliberately decided to use a lot of abbreviations. Why? Because this is how the real medicine looks like in patient charts. You have to know that "WNL" means within normal limits, otherwise you may never figure out what the note is about. Now, with EHR (electronic health records) and medical coding, the art of medical acronyms may come to an end. Computer-generated notes (with some human input) are infamously verbose, often with amazingly little substance. Who needs to write "WD/WN in NAD" when the computer lavishly puts "well-developed and well-nourished in no apparent distress"?

Every now and then, international readers of ask what the different abbreviations in case descriptions mean. This is a link to a very detailed Wikipedia page which lists almost every medical acronym and abbreviation known to human kind. And the beauty of the wiki system is that if you find one which is not listed there, you can add it yourself.

Don't forget to check the difference between acronyms and abbreviations. For starters, all acronyms are abbreviations, but not all abbreviations are acronyms.... :-)


A Comprehensive List of Medical Abbreviations and
List of medical abbreviations, from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
Translating the medical chart. KevinMD/blog.
Online Resources for Medical Abbreviations.
Medical Mnemonics
100% of Greek philosopher named trials showed reduction in mortality, compared with 12% of trials with other acronyms. Lancet, 2011.
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  1. ...of course some of the most descriptive acronyms and abbreviations never actually make it onto the patients notes (at least I hope not)

    Here are some examples:
    and there are plenty more out there. Perhaps we should start another wikki?
    We could call them acerb-ronyms and aggreviations.

  2. This website has a very very extensive list of medical acronyms:

    Hope this helps