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Medical Abbreviations

Learn the essential medical abbreviations that doctors commonly use, ensuring you understand the language of healthcare and empowering you to take control of your own well-being.

USMLE Guide: Medical Abbreviations


Medical abbreviations are commonly used in the healthcare field to enhance communication and save time when documenting patient information. However, it is crucial for healthcare professionals to be familiar with these abbreviations to avoid misinterpretations and potential patient harm. In this guide, we will provide an overview of medical abbreviations commonly encountered in the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE).

Commonly Used Medical Abbreviations

1. ADL

  • Abbreviation: ADL
  • Definition: Activities of Daily Living
  • Explanation: Refers to the basic self-care tasks that individuals perform daily, including bathing, dressing, eating, toileting, and transferring (moving from one place to another).

2. BID

  • Abbreviation: BID
  • Definition: Bis in Die
  • Explanation: Latin abbreviation meaning "twice a day." It is often used to indicate the frequency of medication administration.

3. CBC

  • Abbreviation: CBC
  • Definition: Complete Blood Count
  • Explanation: A laboratory test that provides information about the cellular components of blood, including red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.

4. CHF

  • Abbreviation: CHF
  • Definition: Congestive Heart Failure
  • Explanation: A condition in which the heart is unable to pump enough blood to meet the body's needs, leading to fluid accumulation and symptoms such as shortness of breath and edema.


  • Abbreviation: COPD
  • Definition: Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
  • Explanation: A group of lung diseases characterized by airflow obstruction, including chronic bronchitis and emphysema. It is often caused by smoking.

6. CT

  • Abbreviation: CT
  • Definition: Computed Tomography
  • Explanation: A diagnostic imaging technique that uses X-rays and computer processing to create detailed cross-sectional images of the body.

7. DNR

  • Abbreviation: DNR
  • Definition: Do Not Resuscitate
  • Explanation: An order that indicates a patient's preference to forgo resuscitation in the event of cardiac or respiratory arrest.


  • Abbreviation: EKG/ECG
  • Definition: Electrocardiogram
  • Explanation: A test that records the electrical activity of the heart to evaluate its rhythm and detect abnormalities.

9. HPI

  • Abbreviation: HPI
  • Definition: History of Present Illness
  • Explanation: A detailed account of the patient's symptoms, their duration, and any associated factors. It is an essential component of the medical history.

10. ICU

  • Abbreviation: ICU
  • Definition: Intensive Care Unit
  • Explanation: A specialized hospital unit that provides intensive medical care for critically ill patients, often requiring close monitoring and advanced life support.


Familiarity with medical abbreviations is vital for healthcare professionals, including those preparing for the USMLE. This guide has provided an overview of commonly encountered medical abbreviations, but it is essential to consult reputable sources and stay updated with any changes or additions to the medical abbreviation list. By understanding and correctly interpreting these abbreviations, healthcare professionals can effectively communicate and deliver safe patient care.

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