Abbreviations and acronymsJoe Segen2018-11-06T22:21:01+00:00
Abbreviations and Acronyms
Abbreviations and acronyms (A&As) are an expediency used when the long form of a particular term appears frequently in a published work, or when all of the work’s intended audience are familiar with the shorthand being used. Because it is difficult to know who will read one’s publications, it should never be assumed that end-users will be as familiar with the A&A in question as the author; quality writing for peers demands translation at the abbreviation’s first appearance.
New Medical Terms is home to the largest collection (21,681 entries*) of physician-curated A&As on the web. As a general rule, A&As should be used sparingly, because of the risk of mistranslation. It is common knowledge that CT translates as computed tomography, but what if the author intended cardiothoracic, chest tube, chemotherapy or clotting time. Similarly, one shouldn’t assume that AF means atrial fibrillation, when it also translates as abdominal fat, acid-fast, adult female, and amniotic fluid.
Many A&As were sourced from the Johns Hopkins’ Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man (OMIM) database. Our British colleagues appear to be particularly fond of A&As, so I flagged A&As that I found on lists of A&As I found whilst I was in the UK, adding the brief phrase British medicine.
For many of the shorter abbreviations, there are dozens of translations; finding the exact translation of can be difficult and would be based on context.
*This should be your go-to place for translating abbreviations and acronyms