What does this medical abbreviation mean?

Some abbreviations commonly used in medical tests or procedures are explained below.

  • ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) surgery: reconstructed surgery of the knee where new tissue is grafted (attached) onto a torn ACL.
  • B12: B12 is a vitamin. If you don’t have enough vitamin B12, you may develop vitamin B12 deficiency anaemia.
  • BP: blood pressure. This is usually written as one number over another and is measured to detect high blood pressure (HBP or hypertension) and low blood pressure (LBP or hypotension).  
  • CT scan or CAT scan: computerised tomography scan. This scan takes a series of X-rays of your body at slightly different angles and joins them together to produce detailed images of the inside of your body.  
  • CVS: chorionic villus sampling. This is a test for pregnant women that can detect serious problems with the unborn baby, such as Down's syndrome or cystic fibrosis.
  • D&C: Dilation and curettage is a minor surgical procedure to remove tissue from the lining of the womb (uterus). This procedure is less common nowadays and hysteroscopies are more often used.  
  • CXR: chest radiograph or chest X-ray.
  • ECG: electrocardiogram. This test records the rhythm and electrical activity of your heart to assess your risk of coronary heart disease.
  • EEG: electroencephalogram. This a painless test that records brain activity.  
  • FBC: full blood count. This blood test can assess your general health and check for a range of disorders, including infections. RBC means red blood cell count and WBC means white blood cell count.  
  • HbA1c test: this blood test gives an idea of your blood glucose (sugar) levels over time. It’s used to monitor diabetes.  
  • HCG test: human chorionic gonadotrophin test. It is the medical name for a pregnancy test. HCG is a pregnancy hormone that’s found in blood and urine.  
  • IVP: intravenous pyelogram (or intravenous urogram – IVU). This is an X-ray study of your urinary system.  
  • LBC: liquid-based cytology. This is a new way of preparing the cell sample in cervical screening tests (when a sample of cells from your cervix is taken to test for pre-cancerous cells).  
  • LDL/HDL: low density lipoprotein/high density lipoprotein. These are two types of cholesterol found in the blood. You may see these abbreviations if you have blood cholesterol tests.  
  • LFTs: liver function tests. These are blood tests to check that your liver is working properly.  
  • MRI scan: magnetic resonance imaging scan. This scan uses a strong magnetic field and radio waves to produce detailed images of the inside of your body.  
  • MSU: mid-stream urine sample. Collecting a urine sample, but not collecting the first part of urine that comes out or the last part. For more information, see How should I collect and store a urine sample?  
  • PET scan: positron emission tomography. This scan produces three-dimensional images that show how the tissues inside your body work.
  • PSA: prostate-specific antigen. A blood test to detect prostate disorders in men, such as an enlarged prostate or prostate cancer.  
  • STI: sexually transmitted infection.
  • TFTs: thyroid function tests. Blood tests to check your thyroid gland is working properly.
  • TIBC: total iron-binding capacity. A blood test to detect whether you have too much or too little iron in your body.

Read the answers to more questions about operations, tests and procedures.

Further information:

Page last reviewed: 04/02/2015

Next review due: 28/02/2018