Thursday, September 6, 2007

Abbreviations Can Be Confusing

During the course of your medical career you will be forced to memorize hundreds, if not thousands of abbreviations, acronyms, and other mnemonic devices. These are designed to jog your memory and make it easier to remember certain pieces of medical terminology. They also allow you to communicate important information in an accepted form of medical shorthand.

However, unless the term you use is a universally understood standard such as AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) or COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), you should always dictate the long version. If not, the slightest difference in interpretation can result in a surprising variety of meanings. Let's look at some samples of what can go wrong:

BPH can stand for:

  • benign prostatic hypertrophy

  • benign prostatic hyperplasia

CCU can stand for:

  • cardiac care unit

  • Cherry-Crandall units

  • community care unit

  • coronary care unit

CHD can stand for:

  • Chediak-Higashi disease

  • childhood disease

  • congenital heart disease

  • congestive heart disease

  • coronary heart disease

[Language Skills Worksheet #1 ]

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