September 1981

Watch the Acronyms, Initialisms, and Abbreviations

Author Affiliations

Department of Pediatrics University of California Medical Center San Francisco, CA 94143

Am J Dis Child. 1981;135(9):789. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1981.02130330001001

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Numerous articles have been published objecting to the obscure meanings in many areas of medical writing and speaking. It is no wonder that lawyers and reporters in the media so frequently mistake what has been said or written by physicians and consequently sometimes compose their own fictional reports.

In my home hospital, 26 pages of alphabetical abbreviations, listing over 600 symbols, are recommended for use in progress notes in the charts of patients, although these are not to be used in final reports or conference discussion. Inescapably, many of these alphabetical abbreviations or symbols creep into presentations or publications.

Most physicians are aware of the meaning of chemical symbols and are not confused by many other of the abbreviations commonly employed in medicine, such as T for temperature, P for pulse, R for respiration, and BP for blood pressure. However, some publications go to the ridiculous extreme of defining P

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