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Medical Abbreviations Query
What to Engrave on a Medical ID Bracelet

Purpose of a Medical ID
The purpose of a medical id is to alert paramedics and EMT's to a patient's specific medical or allergic condition at the point in time when they're about to administer emergency treatment.  It's certainly critical for persons whose illnesses might render them unable to speak to wear a medical id bracelet or medical alert pendant, but anyone involved in a traumatic incident like a car crash could be in a state of unconsciousness when help arrives.  The goal is for the patient to receive proper treatment without delay, and to help insure that she won't receive a medication that she's allergic to.  It's commonly said that a medical id speaks for you when you're unable to speak.

Your Doctor is the Final Authority
What follows is a set of guidelines that will help you know what you should engrave on your medical id, but there's no substitute for the advice of a medical professional.  These guidelines will get you started, but your doctor should be the one that makes the final recommendation for the language that will be engraved on your medical id. 

Key Components
There are four pieces of information that generally need to be engraved on a medical id alert bracelet: diagnosis or condition, allergies (if any), patient's name, and emergency contact.  There are also things that aren't needed, such as the patient's address (unless they have dementia) and social security number. 

Personal Information
Most people prefer to have personal information out of sight, so it's most common to have the patient's diagnosis and allergies engraved on the front of their ID bracelet, and their name and emergency contact on the back.  (note: although not all medical id providers offer two-sided engraving, most medical id bracelets can be engraved front and back, and that provides more room for engraving). 

Common Medical Abbreviations
There are a number of standard medical abbreviations that can be used to save room (see below).  Most of these are international in scope and acceptance, but not all.  Pay close attention to the use of upper and lower case letters in the abbreviation.  Extraneous words should be left out if possible.  For example, it's not necessary to engrave 'Taking Coumadin'.  Just the word 'Coumadin' is sufficient.  And, rather than engraving 'Allergic to Penicillin', just say 'No Penicillin'.    The same is true for food allergies.  If you're allergic to nuts, just say 'No Nuts'.  If you want to say that the patient has no allergies whatsoever, that can be abbreviated 'NKA'.  'No procedures in left arm' can be abbreviated as 'No Proc's L Arm'.   

See Other Side
If any diagnosis or allergy information is being engraved on the back of a medical bracelet and the medical id would have to be removed from the wrist in order to see the back side, it's best to add the words 'See Other Side' on the front.  It may use up a line of engraving, but it helps to insure that the paramedic will know that there's more medical information on the back.  If the reverse side of the bracelet can be viewed easily without having to remove the bracelet from the patient's wrist, then it's probably not necessary to add 'see other side'.

Emergency Contact
When deciding whose emergency contact phone number to engrave on a medical id, try to select the individual who is most likely to be available to take the call.  It's unwise to use someone who travels frequently, or who frequently has to allow their calls to go to voice mail.  Many people screen their calls and only answer those from numbers they recognize.  The person whose phone number is used on the back of a medical id bracelet will need to be someone that's willing to answer incoming calls even when the caller id is unrecognized.  Note: if there's not enough room for diagnosis, allergies, patient name, and phone number, the patient's name can be eliminated, but it would be better to find a different bracelet that offers more room for engraving.  

To the left is a medical bracelet sample showing front placement.  To the right is a sample showing placement of info on the back of a medical bracelet.

Sample medical id bracelet with diagnosis and condition engraved on front of medical alert id

Sample of patient name and contact info for back of medical id bracelet

Medical Abbreviations

abdomen/abdominal Abd
abdominal aortic aneurysm AAA
above knee amputation AKA
acquired immunodeficiency syndrome AIDS
acute myocardial infarction AMI
adult respiratory distress syndrome ARDS
Advanced Cardiac Life Support ACLS
Advanced Life Support ALS
allergic to No
ampule amp
anterior ant
arteriosclerotic heart disease ASHD
as soon as possible ASAP
aspirin ASA
atrial fibrillation A-fib
atrioventricular AV
automated external defibrillator AED
axillary ax
basic life support BLS
below knee amputation BKA
bicarbonate HCO3
bilateral B /bil
blood pressure BP
both ears AU
both eyes OU
by mouth p.o.
cancer CA
carbon dioxide CO2
carbon monoxide CO
cardiac catheterization C-cath
cardiopulmonary resuscitation CPR
cardiovascular CV
chest x-ray CXR
chronic obstructive pulmonary disease COPD
chronic renal failure CRF
congestive heart failure CHF
coronary artery bypass graft CABG
coronary artery disease CAD
decubitus ulcer decub
deep vein thrombosis DVT
defibrillate / defibrillation defib
delirium tremens DTs
Dextrose 5% in water D5W
Dextrose 50% in water D50W
dextrose stick d/s or d/stick
diabetes mellitus DM
diabetic ketoacidosis DKA
diagnosis Dx/diag
discontinue D/C
do not resuscitate DNR
electrolytes m - meter lytes
endotracheal ET
endotracheal tube ETT
Epinephrine Epi
epinephrine pen EpiPen
every q
every hour qh
flexion flex
foot ft
forearm FA
foreign body FB
four times daily qid
fracture Fx
gastroesophageal GE
gastroesophageal reflux disease GERD
gastrointestinal GI
gastrostomy tube G-tube
genitourinary GU
gonococcus GC
gynecology Gyn
hematocrit Hct
hemoglobin Hgb
Hepatitis B Virus HBV
history Hx
Human Immunodeficiency Virus HIV
hydrogen peroxide H202
hypertension HTN
index finger IF
inferior inf
Insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus IDDM
intramuscular IM
intraosseous IO
intravenous IV
iron Fe

Medical Abbreviations (cont'd)

irregular irreg
irrigation irrig
jejunostomy tube J-tube
joint jt
jugular vein distension JVD
keep vein open KVO
large lg
lateral lat
left L
left ear AS
left eye OS
left lower lobe LLL
left lower quadrant LLQ
left upper lobe LUL
left upper quadrant LUQ
left ventricle LV
left ventricular hypertrophy LVH
lidocaine lido
liquid liq
lumbosacral LS
magnesium Mg
Magnetic Resonance Imaging MRI
maximum Max
medications meds
methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus MRSA
methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus epidermis MRSE
microgram mcg
milligram mg
mitral valve prolapsed MVP
moderate Mod
morphine sulfate MS
multiple sclerosis MS
myocardial infarction MI
nasal cannula NC
nasogastric NG
nitroglycerin NTG
no known allergies NKA
no known drug allergies NKDA
non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitis NIDDM
normal sinus rhythm NSR
not applicable NA
nothing by mouth npo
nursing home NH
organic brain syndrome OBS
oxygen O2
paroxismal supraventricular tachycardia PSVT
paroxysmal atrial tachycardia PAT
peptic ulcer disease PUD
percent oxygen saturation SpO2
posterior post
premature atrial contraction PAC
premature ventricular contraction PVC
pulmonary edema Pulm Ed
regular reg
respiration resp
right R
right ear AD
right eye OD
right lower lobe RLL
right lower quadrant RLQ
right middle lobe RML
right upper lobe RUL
right upper quadrant RUQ
small sm
sodium Na
sodium bicarbonate NAHCO3
sodium bicarbonate NaHCO3
spontaneous spont.
supraventricular tachycardia SVT
tablet tab
teaspoon tsp
temporo mandibilar joint TMJ
tetracycline TCN
three times a day tid
to keep open TKO
tracheal/tracheostomy trach
treatment Tx
tuberculosis TB
twice daily bid
ultra-high frequency UHF
upper gastrointestinal UGI
upper respiratory infection URI
urinary tract infection UTI
ventilator vent
ventricular fibrillation V-fib
ventricular tachycardia VT/V tach
very-high frequency VHF
water H20
whenever necessary prn

 


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