COPD Medical Abbreviations: What Do They Mean?
Profile photo of John Bottrell, RRT

Your prescription says, “Albuterol QID.” Your doctor wants you to get a PFT and ABG?” These and other abbreviations are commonly used by medical professionals, so what do they mean? Here is a list of some most common medical abbreviations you might see from time to time if you have COPD.

QID: Four times a day  Back when I was a kid most controller medicines were prescribed for you to use them four times a day. This was really hard to do, especially for a kid. Today, most asthma and COPD controller medicines are prescribed.

BID. Twice a day. Symbicort and Advair are two inhalers with the recommended frequency of twice per day. You just take it before brushing your teeth in the morning and before bed. This type of frequency has resulted in much-improved compliance with asthmatics and COPDers.

QD.  Once a day. Breo is only needed once a day, and this is very convenient frequency. You just take one puff in the morning and that’s it.

TID: Three times a day. I do not know of any current COPD medicines that are prescribed for use three times a day. Theophylline used to be prescribed that way, as you had to take it at intervals to keep your theophylline level therapeutic.

Q4:  Every four hours. When you are having a COPD flare-up, your doctor might prescribe for you to use your rescue medicine every four hours.

Q4W/A:  Every four hours while awake. I think you might see this prescribed frequency for rescue medicine, such as when you are having a flare-up. I think this makes sense, as you also need your sleep.

PRN.  As needed. You can take it whenever you need it. Some doctors write albuterol this way, meaning that you don’t have to use it unless you feel asthma symptoms.

Q4-6 PRN. Every 4-6 hours as needed. More than likely, a prn prescription will come with a frequency such as this. This is the normal frequency for rescue medicine like albuterol.

ABG.  Arterial Blood Gas. It’s a blood draw that measures the gases in your arterial blood, including oxygen and carbon dioxide levels.

EKG.  Electrocardiogram. It’s a test that takes just a few minutes, and involves measuring the electric currents going through your heart.

PFT.  Pulmonary Function Test. This is a breathing test that measures how well you can exhale and inhale. It can help determine what COPD stage you are in. It can also be used to determine how well your COPD treatment program is working for you.

MDI.  Metered Dose Inhaler.  A good example is your rescue inhaler.

DPI.  Dry Powdered Inhaler. A good example is the Advair Discuss.

ICS. Inhaled Corticosteroids. These are low dose corticosteroids that you inhale either by using an MDI or DPI. Examples include Flovent or Pulmicort. They are also one of the components of combination inhalers like Advair and Symbicort. They reduce underlying airway inflammation to help you obtain ideal COPD control.

BPBlood Pressure. It’s one of the five vital signs.

HR.  Heart Rate. It’s one of the five vital signs.

RR.  Respiratory Rate. It’s one of the five vital signs.

TempTemp: Temperature. It’s one of the five vital signs.

SpO2 or SAT: Oxygen Saturation. It’s the percentage of oxygen you inhale that makes it to your arterial blood stream. It is measured using a pulse oximeter. It is one of the five vital signs.

F. Frequency. It’s another term sometimes used in place of respiratory rate.

COPD. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. Almost forgot this abbreviation we all know too well.

These are the ones I could think of. Let us know in the comments below if you can think of any others worthy of defining.

Editor’s note: We are adding the following based on community feedback!

FEV. FEV is the acronym for Forced Expired Volume (FEV). It is usually timed at 1, 2 and 3 seconds. It can be used to determine the level of obstruction that exists for the patient performing the maneuver during a PFT (Pulmonary Function Test).

SOB. SOB stands for shortness of breath, which is a common symptom of COPD.

SubscribeJoin 14,000 subscribers to our weekly newsletter.

Your username will be visible to others.

Reader favorites