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Pursuit Of Excellent Medicine - Acronyms in Medical Practice

November 16, 2016

 


By Dr John Cross MB.BS.FAFOEM [RACP].GDPH
Manager, Health, Education and Training - AMPHEaT

Using acronyms in clinical notes/orders is a possible source of error in case management
and can confound clinical reasoning.
In 1971 I wrote up the clinical orders for a flat patient with “A Litre of Hartmann’s ASAP & will
review patient in 30 minutes. KVO with normal saline thereafter”. It was 2.00am and the
ward staff were at meal break hence the written note. Upon return as scheduled there was
nearly a full Hartmann’s hanging and when I asked the Ward Staff what was happening they
said it is going in ASAP which to them was as slow as possible. I never got to experience
what their interpretation of KVO was!
I have never used acronyms since in orders but have succumbed to their use in my medical
notes as in Lx Sp, Tx Sp, Hx, and AJ.
As for confounding Clinical reasoning, if you get that LUTS means something, then HUTS
must have a place as well in the acronym literature. However, I find no published data on
Higher Urinary Tract Symptoms (HUTS) or that Lower Urinary Tract Symptoms (LUTS) is a
known listed ‘Medical Acronym’’.
IPESIM …..Introducing Possible Error Sources In Medicine…… at least this acronym
conveys pessimism eh?
Cheers
JohnC
PS. love to hear of any acronyms you have had issues with.

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