Have you ever looked at your medical records or prescriptions and wondered what all those abbreviations mean?
Abbreviations are commonly used in healthcare settings to save doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals time and space whilst filling out medical records.
In this short guide, we will explain some of the most common abbreviations to help you make sense of your medical records or prescriptions.
At The Good Care Group, we recognise the importance of proper medication management for individuals receiving care and their families. The best way to feel confident that your loved one’s medication is being properly managed is through daily monitoring.
Contact our friendly team to learn how our dedicated live-in care services can improve your loved one’s quality of life through proper medication management, 24/7 support and specialist medical expertise for complex conditions.
Why are there so many medical abbreviations?
Doctors, nurses and pharmacists see a large number of patients each day. Medical abbreviations provide a short-hand way of conveying important information such as how and when a medication should be taken.
Using abbreviations can save healthcare professionals valuable space and time whilst writing patients’ medical records or prescriptions. Abbreviations also help eliminate errors due to unclear handwriting, typos or misspellings.
What do medical abbreviations on prescriptions mean?
The following abbreviations are somes of the most commonly used in the UK, and are usually in Latin. QDS for example stands for ‘quater die sumendum’ which means ‘to be taken four times a day’. Other common abbreviations that may appear on a prescription (also known as Rx) are:
OD – to be taken once a day
BD – to be taken twice a day
TDS – to be taken three times a day
Mane – morning
Nocte – night
MD – as directed
What are some common medical abbreviations?
Please note that this information is provided as guidance only. Medical staff may sometimes use the same abbreviations to mean different things. If you are ever confused about the abbreviations that appear on your medical records or prescriptions, it is best to contact your doctor, nurse or pharmacist.
broken bone (fracture)
accident and emergency
body mass index
bowels not open
community mental health nurse
community psychiatric nurse
catheter stream urine sample
computerised tomography scan
central venous pressure
do not attempt cardiopulmonary resuscitation
do not attempt resuscitation
do not resuscitate
deep vein thrombosis
early morning urine sample
examination under anaesthetic
full blood count (a type of blood test)
foundation level doctor
healthcare support worker
high-density lipoprotein (a type of cholesterol)
injection into a muscle
injection directly to a vein
low-density lipoprotein (a type of cholesterol)
last menstrual period
magnetic resonance imaging
n.p.o., npo, NPO
nothing by mouth / not by oral administration
nothing abnormal discovered
nil by mouth
neck of femur
non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug
orally / by mouth / oral administration
p.r., pr, PR
p.r.n., prn, PRN
a sufficient quantity (enough)
registered mental health nurse
learning disability nurse
road traffic accident
injection under the skin
immediately, with no delay, now
to come in
thyroid function test
temperature, pulse and respiration
to take out (usually medication to take home)
urea and electrolytes
urinary tract infection
Talk to us about your care needs
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Content authored by Dr Jane Pritchard 21 December 2022
Dr Jane Pritchard is a consultant Admiral Nurse who specialises in the care and support of those living with dementia. She is a registered nurse with the Nursing and Midwifery Council specialising in mental health. She has over 20 years' experience working in care and has authored several publications on dementia care.