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MEDICAL ABBREVIATIONS

Abbreviations for disease states and physiologic states relevant to dosing

Term Meaning 
ADD Attention Deficit Disorder 
ASHD Arteriosclerotic Heart Disease 
BM Bowel movement 
BP Blood Pressure 
BPM Beats per Minute 
BS Blood Sugar 
Ca Cancer, carcinoma 
CHD Coronary Heart Disease 
CHF Congestive Heart Failure 
CVA Cerebral Vascular Accident, stroke 
DM Diabetes Mellitus 
GERD Gastro-esophageal Reflux Disease 
GI Gastro-intestinal 
ERD End Stage Renal Disease 
HA Headache 
HBP, HTN High Blood Pressure, Hypertension 
HR Heart Rate 
IDD Insulin Dependent Diabetes 
MAP Mean Arterial Pressure 
N&V, N/V Nausea and Vomiting 
NIDD Non Insulin Dependent Diabetes 
PA wedge Pressure, wedge pressure Pulmonary artery wedge pressure 
SOB Shortness of Breath 
Temp Body Temperature 
URI Upper Respiratory Infection 
UTI Urinary Tract Infection 

Abbreviations for Dosage Forms Found in Inscription, Subscription or Signa

Term Meaning 
amp. Ampule. A hermetically sealed glass vessel containing a sterile drug solution 
 usually used parenteral administration. The ampule is broken and the solution 
 drawn into a syringe under aseptic conditions just prior to administration. 
 Ampules are always single dose units. Vials are glass containers with a rubber 
 stopper through which a hypodermic needle can be inserted to remove its 
 contents. Vials can be either single use or multiple use depending on whether 
 a bacteriostatic preservative is present in the solution. 
cap. Capsule. A shell usually made of gelatin that contains the active ingredients 
 in powder or liquid form. When the capsule is swallowed, the gelatin dissolves 
 in the acid environment of the stomach releasing the material inside. 
chart. A divided powder, powder in a paper. The drug or drug mixture is wrapped in 
 folded paper. The patient unfolds the paper and transfers the contents to a 
 tablespoon or a glass and dissolves the contents in water. This solution is 
 swallowed and washed down with water. Archaic dosage form. 
cr., crm. Cream. A semisolid preparation containing drug intended for application to 
 body surfaces like the skin. Creams are heterogenous systems (an oil in water 
 mixture) whose continuous phase is either aqueous or water soluble. Creams 
 absorb into the skin leaving little oily residue. 
elix. Elixir. An oral solution containing drug, water, and some alcohol. When the 
 active ingredients are dissolved exclusively in alcohol the dosage form is 
 called a Spirit. 
emul. Emulsion. A liquid, heterogenous dosage form in which a liquid oil is usually 
 dispersed in a continuous aqueous phase. Usually the drug is dissolved in the 
 internal oil phase. When an emulsion is used topically it is frequently called 
 a lotion. (Topical lotions may also be called suspensions) 
Liq. A solution 
Lot. A lotion. 
pulv., A bulk powder. Applied directly to the skin from the container. 
pulvis 
sol. Solution. A solution of drug usually in water. May be taken by mouth or 
 applied to skin depending on indication. 
supp., Suppository. Firm semisolid dosage forms that are designed to be inserted into 
sup., a particular body opening. The semisolid vehicle melts at body temperature 
suppos releasing the incorporated drug into the local body fluids. Rectal and vaginal 
 suppositories are most common. 
susp. Suspension. A liquid, heterogenous dosage form in which a solid is dispersed 
 in the liquid. Usually the drug is not dissolved in the dosage form. When 
 the suspension is used topically it is frequently called a lotion. 
syr. Syrup. A solution that is sweet and highly viscous. 
tab. Tablet. A compressed tablet of drug and other excipients which can only be 
 manufactured on an industrial scale. Tablets are designed to break up into 
 fragments when they enter the stomach or other body fluid allowing the drug to 
 come into contact with the fluid, and dissolve. Tablets are not pills. Pills 
 are an older type of preparation not commonly used anymore, and have a round 
 shape (exception - colchicine is dispensed as pills). A Sublingual Tablet 
 (tab SL. or SL) is designed to be dissolved under the tongue. A sublingually 
 administered drug is intended to be absorbed across the oral mucosa avoiding 
 gastrointestinal-hepatic degradation prior to entry into general circulation 
 (Example Nitroglycerine Sublingual Tablet). Sublingual tablets should not be 
 swallowed. 
tinc., Tincture. A solution containing a lot of alcohol, although other solvents may 
tr., be present. Tinctures usually contain drug at high concentrations. 
tinct. 
ung, Ointment. A semisolid preparation containing drug intended for application to 
unguetum, body surfaces like the skin. Ointments unlike creams are continuous oil based 
oint. systems. Ointments generally leave an oily residue on the applied surface for 
 a longer time than creams. 

Abbreviations Related to the Directions for the Pharmacist - The Subscription Verbs

disp. Dispense. Provide to the patient. 
div. # Divide. The formula refers to the total amount to be made. Divide the 
 formula into the specified number of dosage units. 
d.t.d. # Give such doses. The formula refers to a single dose. Prepare and dispense 
 a specified number of doses. 
ex. aqua in water 
f., ft. Make. Prepare 
M Mix the contents of the formula 
N.B. Note Well!!! Pay attention to this. 
No., # Number of units to be prepared or dispensed. 
S.A., According to the art. A vague phrase meaning roughly "use your skill and 
Secundum judgement" 
artem 
tal. dos. such doses 

Abbreviations used in the directions to the patient or instructions to care providers - The Signa

Term Meaning 
Sig. write the following directions on the label 
ad up to, don't confuse with right ear (a.d.) 
appl. apply 
c, cum with 
dil. dilute, for example: dil. 5 ml in 6 oz. OJ (orange juice) 
D/C, D.C. Discontinue 
e.m.p., ut as directed, in the manner prescribed 
dict, u.d. 
et and 
NMT not more than 
NPO Nothing by Mouth. The patient is to receive nothing orally 
non rep, do not repeat, (also, no refills when not in Sig.) 
N.R. 
rep repeat, (also, refill when not in Sig.) 
s, sine, s without 

Abbreviations frequently used in the Prescription Formula - The Inscription

Term Meaning 
aa., or aa of each. Used when two or more ingredients are present in the same amount. 
 They are listed sequentially with the symbol placed next to the last item of 
 the group which it refers. 
ad to, up to. don't confuse with a.d. - right ear 
Agit. Shake. 
Alb. White. 
ASA aspirin. an analgesic. 
aq., aqua. water, drinking water. Never used in making prescriptions. 
aq. dest. distilled water, deionized water used in prescriptions. Prepared by 
 distillation. 
aq. pur. purified water USP, An official deionized water used in prescription 
 compounding. 
q.s. a sufficient quantity. Calculate and add the appropriate quantity to make 
 the prescription. Example: the amount of lactose needed to fill capsules. 
q.s. ad a sufficient quantity up to. Add sufficient quantity to achieve a specified 
 total weight or volume. Example: amount of water needed to make 240 ml of 
 total solution. 
aa q.s. ad a sufficient quantity of each up to. Used when more than one substance is 
 to be added in equal quantities to achieve a specified total weight or 
 volume. For example calculate the amount of Lanolin and Petrolatum to make 
 60 g of ointment. 
D5W Dextrose Injection USP, a sterile isotonic IV Fluid (5% dextrose in water) 
HC Hydrocortisone, a steroid hormone 
inj. Injection, indicating that the injection dosage form is to be used. 
MS Morphine Sulfate. A narcotic analgesic 
NF Natural Formulary, Indicates the ingredient should conform standards 
 prescribed in the official NF compendium 
NS, N.S. Sodium Chloride Solution USP, a sterile, isotonic IV fluid (0.9% NaCl in 
 Water) 
1/2NS 0.45% Sodium Chloride for Injection, a sterile IV fluid 
NTG Nitroglycerine, a drug to treat angina pectoris, and other cardiovascular 
 disturbances 
TPN Total Parental Nutrition, an intravenous feeding fluid containing 
 carbohydrates, amino acids, electrolytes, and sometimes lipids. 
USP United States Pharmacopeia, Indicates the ingredient should conform 
 standards prescribed in the official USP compendium. 

Units of Measure used in the Inscription-Subscription1

cc., cc cubic centimeter, USP states 1 cc is equivalent to 1 ml 
fl, fld. specifies that the measure is a fluid measure 
g., Gm. Gram, NB don't confuse with gr. 
gr., gr Grain, NB don't confuse with g. 
gtt. Drop, In general not a rigidly standardized measure. Modern preparations 
 are dispensed with the calibrated dropper included with the manufactured 
 product. 
 Minum, NB Don't confuse with ml 
mcg., mcg Microgram, NB don't confuse with mg. 
mEq Milliequivalent 
mg., mg Milligram, NB don't confuse with mcg 
ml., mL. Milliliter, USP states that 1 cc is equivalent to 1 ml, NB, don't confuse 
 with minum. 
mOsm, mOsmol Milliosmole 
O. Apothecary pint 
oz. ounce 
parts Some formulas indicate the ratio of ingredient quantities to each other. In 
 a formula given in terms of parts by weight, any unit of weight may be used, 
 but it must be applied to all components. In a formula given in parts by 
 volume, any unit of volume may be used, provide that all components have the 
 same units. 
Ratio Ratio strength is a way of representing the concentration of a formula 
Strength component. It is denoted in terms of total amount of solution or mixture 
 that contains one unit of solute. A 1:25 solution of cinnamon oil means 
 that 1 ml of cinnamon oil is contained in each 25 ml of solution. N.B. the 
 second number in the ratio does not describe the quantity of solvent, but 
 the total quantity of solution. If the solute is a liquid the solution is 
 assumed to be a v/v mixture. For solid solutes its assumed to be a w/v 
 mixture. When the denominator of the ratio is 100, the concentration is 
 denoted as Percentage Strength. 
ss., ss one half 
tbl. tablespoonful, a household measure, nominal value 15 ml. 
tsp. teaspoonful, a household measure, nominal value, 5 ml 
U, u, I.U. Unit, International Unit. potency of many antibiotics and endocrine 
 preparations are expressed in terms of official USP units. These units are 
 specific for each substance and determined by an official USP biological 
 activity test 
1. NB. Sometimes the unit abbreviations for quantities are absent in the formula. When 
absent, units for weight are presumed to be gram, g, and for volume presumed to be 
milliliter, mL 

Abbreviations used in the directions to the patient or instructions to care providers concerning Dose and Dosing Frequency - The Signa

Term Meaning 
ad lib., prn use when or as needed. Ex. 1 cap hs prn sleep 
a. before 
a.c. before meals. Take before meals. Usually used in conjunction with q.d., 
 tid etc. 
a.m. morning, before midday 
h. hour 
d. day 
q. every 
q4h every 4 hours, Also specified by the degree symbol. Ex. q 4deg. 
q.d. every day, take one dose a day 
q.o.d. every other day, Take one dose every other day 
bid twice a day, Take one dose twice a day. N.B. does not mean every 12 hours. 
 Loosely means morning and evening. 
tid three times a day, NB. Take one dose three times a day. N.B. does not mean 
 very 8 hours. Loosely means morning, evening, and night. 
qid four times a day. NB. Take one dose four times a day. N.B. does not mean 
 every 6 hours. Loosely means morning, afternoon, evening, and night. 
t.i.w. three times a week, Take a dose three times a week. For example M, W, F 
h.s. at bed time. Take at bedtime 
ATC around the clock, Doses administered at equal time intervals. Ex: q. 6 h. 
 ATC. 
m2, M2 square meter 
BSA body surface area 
p. after 
p.c. after meals. Take after meals. Usually used in conjunction with q.d., bid, 
 tid etc. 
p.m. evening, afternoon, after midday 
noct. night 
STAT immediately, give at once 
s.o.s. if there is need. Administer again if required. Example: MS 2 mg IV STAT 
 and q 30 min s.o.s. bucking ventilator 

Abbreviations used to indicate Route of Administration or Administration Site1.

Term Meaning 
a.d. right ear, (the dexter ear) 
a.s. left ear, (the sinister ear) 
a.u. both ears 
Aur ear, ears 
D. Right 
IA intraarterially, inject into artery 
ID intradermal, inject into skin 
IM intramuscular, inject into muscle 
IV intravenous, inject or infuse into vein, rate specified. For intravenous 
 fluid therapy IV also refers to the infusion fluid. IV bottles are 
 consecutively numbered. Ex: IV #10 NS 1000 mL @ 125 cc/h, IV #11 D5W 
 1000 mL @ 125/hr 
IMP, IV bolus intravenous push, a rapid injection into vein 
IVPB intravenous piggy back. infuse solution into primary intravenous infusion, 
 rate specified Ex: Ampicillin 250 mg IVPB over 30 min q 6 h 
KVO keep vein open. A slow infusion. The rate is set by institution policy 
 or specified used to maintain an intravenous catheter patent. 
via Hep Loc Inject through heparin lock. A small indwelling intravenous cannula 
 filled with a dilute heparin solution to maintain patency. After 
 injection, the heparin lock needs to be flushed and refilled with a dilute 
 heparin solution. 
Ocul eye 
o.d. right eye (the dexter eye) in the right eye 
o.l., o.s. left eye, (the sinister eye) in the left eye 
o.u. both eyes, in each eye 
p.o., per os by mouth, take orally 
R, pro rect. rectal 
S. left 
SL sublingual, Place under tongue and allow to dissolve 
subq., s.c. subcutaneously, inject below the skin 
top topically, apply locally to affected area 
vag. vaginally 
1. NB. The oral route is always assumed if no route is specified for a drugs which can 
be administered orally. If it is not possible to give the drug orally, (i.e. NPO), the 
alternative route must be explicitly specified by the prescriber. 

THE ANATOMY OF A PRESCRIPTION

CHECKING THE DEA NUMBER

* All physician DEA bumbers begin with TWO LETTERS.

* The FIRST LETTER is always A or B.

* The SECOND LETTER is the first letter of the physicians LAST NAME.

* Add digits 1, 3, 5

* Add digits 2, 4, 6 and multiply by 2.

* Add the two totals.

* The LAST digit of the sum is the same as the last digit of the DEA number

Example:

Take DEA # AH0354213 from Dr. Alfred K. 
 Hall 
Is the 1st letter A or B? Yes, it's A 
Does the 2nd letter the same as 1st letter of the Yes, it's H 
physician's last name? 
Add 1st, 3rd and 5th digit: 0 + 5 + 2 = 7 
Add 2nd, 4th and 6th digits and multiply by two (3 + 4 + 1) x 2 = 16 
Add the two totals 7 + 16 = 23 
Is the last digit of the sum the same as the last digit of Yes 
the DEA # 



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