Say What? Common Asthma Abbreviations

There are literally thousands of abbreviations in the medical world. It seems everything has a short hand abbreviation. For those of us in the medical field who use them on a daily basis, they’re no big deal and completely second nature. For everyone else, they can be a major source of frustration. I wanted to take some time to define some of these commonly used abbreviations and acronyms in the asthma and medical world to hopefully help so when you may see them you understand what they are and what they stand for.

ABG– Arterial Blood Gas. This is generally an asthmatics least favorite blood draw. This test is done to determine your arterial blood oxygen level (among other things to help determine the severity of your asthma attack.) An ABG is done by drawing blood from an artery, usually from the wrist. They aren’t fun by any means but often times a vital part of your treatment in the hospital to evaluate your respiratory status.

ACT– Asthma Control Test. This is a short test that consists of answering five questions to help you and your doctor of your asthma symptoms and if your asthma is well controlled.

CFC– Chloroflurocarbons. This is the former propellant that was in all metered dose inhalers (MDI’s) prior to 2008. They were replaced with more environmentally friendly hydrofluroalkanes (HFA) propellant as it doesn’t damage the ozone layer like the CFC’s were found to do.

DPI– Dry Powder Inhaler. This is any inhaler that has a powder that you inhale. Examples include Advair discus, Breo, and Incruse.

FeNO– Fractional Exhaled Nitric Oxide. This is a measurement of the concentration of Nitric Oxide in exhaled breath. When asthma is flaring, there will be higher than normal levels of nitric oxide released from the epithelial cells of the bronchial wall..

FEV1Forced Expiratory Volume in the first second- The amount of air you were able to blow out in the first second during a pulmonary function test (PFT).

FVC– Forced Vital Capacity. The total amount of air you were able to blow out during a PFT.

GERD– Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease.

HFA– Hydrofluroalkanes. The propellant used in metered dose inhalers (MDI’s) that replaced CFC’s.

ICS– Inhaled Corticosteroids. These can include both inhaler and nebulizer steroid medication, such as qvar, pulmicort, flovent, and alvesco. ICS’ can also be found in combination inhalers such as advair, Breo, symbicort and dulera (to name a few).

IgE– Immunoglobulin E. These are antibodies produced by the immune system. If you have allergic asthma you will have a higher than normal IgE level.

LABA– Long Acting Beta Agonist. LABA’s are used to open narrowed airways and prevent asthma attacks. The FDA warns that LABA medications should never be used without an inhaled corticosteroid as it can increase the risk of a life threatening asthma attack by itself.

MDI– Metered Dose Inhaler. This is the most common type of inhaler on the market. It is the kind that sprays the medication and is often times used with a spacer for better medication deposition.

NAEPP– National Asthma Education and Prevention Program
NHLBI– National Heart, lung, and Blood institute.

PCP– Primary Care Physician

PEF– Peak Expiratory Flow. This is what your track with your peak flow meter.

PFT– Pulmonary Function Test. Also known as a lung function test.

SABA– Short Acting Beta Agonist. These are your quick reliever medications such as albuterol.

Spo2– Peripheral capillary oxygen saturation. Also known as pulse oximetry.

SVN– Small Volume Nebulizer. This includes the nebulizer you might have at home or the one you use for a single treatment in the hospital/Emergency Room.

VCD– Vocal Chord Dysfunction. The symptoms mimic asthma and it is not uncommon for an asthmatic to have both asthma and VCD.

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