Neil M. Davis, Medical Abbreviations: 32,000 Conveniences at the Expense of Communication and Safety. Neil M. Davis. Neil M. Davis Associates, 2011. ($28.95, paperback, ISBN 987-0-931431-15-9, 424 pages).
Medical Abbreviations contains medical acronyms, symbols, abbreviations, and slang accompanied by over 32,000 of their possible meanings. It is an alphabetical listing that has “been compiled to assist individuals in reading and transcribing medical records, medically-related communications, and prescriptions,” and as such is an extremely practical handbook for librarians, attorneys and law students working in the areas of life sciences, pharmaceuticals, or health or medical law. It is highly recommended for all types of law libraries.
A short introductory chapter is followed by a chapter discussing dangerous, contradictory, and/or ambiguous abbreviations and the problems they can cause; “FLU,” for example, can represent not only influenza but the distinct drugs fluconazole, fludarabine, flunisolide, fluoxetine, or flutiscasone proprionate. Chapter 3 discusses the need for and suggestions for a healthcare controlled vocabulary. Chapter 4 is self-explanatorily titled “How Medical Writers, Editors, and Health Professionals Can Help Control the Proliferation of Health-Related Abbreviations.” Chapter 5, a brief “Medical Abbreviation Primer,” lists 275 of the most commonly used medical abbreviations arranged by category.
Chapter 6, titled “Lettered and Numbered Abbreviations, Acronyms, and Slang,” makes up the bulk of the book’s content, taking up 323 pages of the text. Entries are arranged in the following order: numbers, abbreviations which start with a number(s), Roman numerals, and lettered abbreviations and acronyms. Entries are neatly and clearly arranged in columns. This makes simple work of reading and comparing possible meanings. The author has attempted to be as complete as possible. The entry for “MD,” for example, has seventeen possible meanings ranging from “macula degeneration” to “maintenance dose” to “mesiodistal” to “muscular dystrophy.”
The remaining chapters are useful short guides to understanding and interpreting medical terminology. Chapter 7 lists symbols and Greek letters. Chapter 8 includes tables, lists, and conversions. Chapter 9 is a cross-referenced list of generic and brand drug names. Chapter 10 gives normal adult laboratory values for commonly requested lab tests.
Medical Abbreviations facilitates the critical process of ascertaining the correct meaning of a medical term–whether, for example, the acronym “SJS” means Schwartz-Jampel syndrome (a rare genetic disorder characterized by abnormalities of the skeletal muscles and other symptoms), Stevens-Johnson syndrome (a serious disorder in which the skin and mucous membranes react severely to a medication or infection), or Swyer-James syndrome (a lung disorder). Certainly Google or other sources may be able to accomplish the same thing but I doubt any could do it more handily or conveniently than Medical Abbreviations.
In summary, this publication is a concise and very convenient handbook for decoding medical and health terms. It is an inexpensive, current, and portable resource. Medical Abbreviations comes with a free 12-month single-user license to the Internet version, which is updated weekly with new entries. An online only version is also available.
The author states that, “If there is such a thing as the world’s foremost authority on medical abbreviations, then I am it.” After fifteen editions of Medical Abbreviations, he seems to have proven himself.
Donna M. Fisher is a law librarian at Senniger Powers LLP in St. Louis MO, the largest intellectual property firm in Missouri.