URL of this page: https://medlineplus.gov/medwords/abbreviations1.html
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Abbreviations—Part 1 of 2


Some final tips about "alphabet soup." You know—those strings of letters that you see on requests for lab work or other tests.

They aren't words—the letters are shorthand for longer words. They may be abbreviations or acronyms (words made of letters from several words.)

Here are some examples:

  • CBC is Complete Blood Count, a lab test that measures the number of different types of blood cells.
  • UTI is urinary tract infection, an infection of the kidney or bladder.

Who invented these? And why? Health professionals use abbreviations so they don't have to repeatedly write out those long medical words!

Sometimes the shortcut is the first letters of a group of words. Sometimes the shortcut is selected letters from one long word.

More examples:

  • MRI is magnetic resonance imaging, a type of diagnostic test using images.
  • CMV is cytomegalovirus, a virus that causes a variety of infections.

It's all Greek to me! Or Latin! Sometimes the shortcut has Greek or Latin roots.

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