Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Medical Abbreviations - Prescription Writing

There is usually so much clinical information to pass on between colleagues that it's probably no surprise to find a multitude of medical abbreviations, medical jargon and shortened terms in everyday use.  You can see why, "quick pass me the defib", makes more sense than,  "quick pass me the defibrillator".  Time is vital in an emergency situation and every second counts.  Or how about "his sats have dropped", instead of "his oxygen saturation has dropped".  Its just so much easier to say.

Learning medical abbreviations can pose a few problems. You only have to look on the internet or in most medical terminology books to find lists as long as your arm. Many abbreviations are used in prescription writing and in the language used when administering drugs or medicine.

so much info, so little room
The process of writing safe and effective prescriptions (scripts) requires a lot of important information such as drug name, drug dosage, frequency of administration, route of administration, start date, and prescriber's name.  Anyone who has seen a hospital drug kardex will know that that they don't leave much room for all of the above information, and if you are the admitting doctor required to write up (prescribe) 15 different drugs, then its understandable why so many abbreviations are used.

The following are the most commonly used:
From 'statim' meaing 'immediately'.  Stat doses are usually given in emergency situations.   You'll hear this a lot on ER.  "Give him a stat dose of narcan and monitor his breathing".

From 'pro re nata' meaning 'in the circumstances' or 'as and when required''PRN' prescriptions are forward thinking and proactive.  If a patient is admitted with a condition that has or may develop symptoms such as a fever, nausea, vomiting or pain, nurses are able to give such drugs without asking the doctor to come and write it up.

You'll see this collection of abbreviations when referring to the frequency of drug administration.   
OD = Once a day, BD = twice a day, TDS = three times a day, and QDS = four times a day.

These abbreviations refer to the route of drug administration.  PO is said and written when administering tablets, capsules or fluids orally or by mouthPR is used when you you need to give an enema or suppository rectallyPR is also used when a doctor needs to perform a DRE digital (finger) rectal examination.  PV is used when cream or a pessary needs to be given vaginally.

As with the above this family of abbreviations also refers to the route of drug administration, but only when a needle is involved.  So when the patient needs some form of injection or cannula (venflon) insertion.
SC = subcutaneous, into the fatty tissue below the skin.
IV = intravenous, into a vein.
IM = intramuscular, into a muscle.

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