Medical Alert Bracelets: Abbreviations and Terminologies

KEITH MORRIS

A single piece of jewelry could save your life.  

Without you saying anything, your healthcare team will know which treatments to avoid and which treatments can be lifesaving, all because medical alert bracelets convey critical information about your health to emergency responders. 

Medical alert jewelry has been around since 1953. It saves countless lives by alerting first responders to crucial health information that shaves critical seconds off treatment time. 

Figuring out how to fit your complex medical history onto a small piece of metal can be challenging. Medical terms are usually long, but thankfully, some standard abbreviations are available to help you out.

What to Include on Your Medical Alert Bracelet

When designing your alert bracelet, you want to use standardized terminology and accepted abbreviations. This ensures information is conveyed clearly and won’t be misinterpreted by first responders.  

Even so, you won’t be able to convey every piece of your medical history. You should include medical conditions, medications, allergies, and emergency contact information on an emergency alert bracelet. You may want to add your blood type if space allows. Some individuals wear a separate alert bracelet that contains intervention wishes, such as do not resuscitate (DNR) or do not intubate.

You should place the most critical issues at the top of your medical alert bracelet. This is usually your chronic medical condition but could be a medication that puts you at increased risk during an emergency. This information should be followed by your allergy information and then your emergency contact.

For example, a well-organized medical alert bracelet will have four lines. 

  • Medical Conditions
  • Medications
  • Allergies
  • Emergency Contact

This layout gives first responders all the information in an easy-to-read format that prioritizes the most critical information.

There is a set way to represent your medical data on an alert bracelet. When listing medical conditions, the abbreviation is all you need. For medications, you should place the word “ON” in front of the medication abbreviation. Food and medication allergies should be preceded by the word “NO” to indicate the allergy.

Use the word “ICE” in front of phone numbers to indicate who to call in case of an emergency. This is particularly important for Alzheimer's and autism patients. Sticking to this standardized format ensures responders interpret your medical alert bracelet correctly. 

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Accepted Medical Abbreviations

The healthcare community has developed abbreviations over the years to facilitate communication and make documentation more concise. You can use these abbreviations for medical alert bracelets to convey your most important health information efficiently.  

The following abbreviations are not a comprehensive list. Always consult with your doctor before ordering medical alert jewelry using medical abbreviations. Only a medical professional can verify that your health information is represented appropriately. 

Heart Disease Abbreviations

  • Coronary artery disease: CAD
  • Aortic valve replacement: AVR
  • Automatic implantable cardiac defibrillator (pacemaker): AICD
  • Congestive heart failure: CHF
  • Hypertension: HTN
  • Mitral valve prolapse: MVP
  • Atrial fibrillation: AFIB
  • Heart transplant: HEART TX

Lung Disease Abbreviations:

  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: COPD
  • Cystic Fibrosis: CF
  • Pulmonary arterial hypertension: PAH
  • Lung transplant: LUNG TX

Coagulation Disorder Abbreviations

  • Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura: ITP
  • Von Willebrand’s Disease: VWD
  • Antiphospholipid antibody syndrome: APLS
  • If taking a blood-thinning medication: ON BLOOD THINNERS

Other Important Health Conditions

  • Alzheimer’s disease: ALZ
  • Diabetes mellitus: DM
  • Insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus: IDDM
  • Epilepsy: EPILEPSY-ON MEDS
  • Transplant: TX
  • Cancer: CA
  • Chronic kidney disease: CKD
  • Bone marrow transplant: BMT

How to Show Diagnostic and Treatment Restrictions

Not all critical health information is included in your medical conditions, allergies, and medications. You may have a history of surgery or implants that make specific medical procedures dangerous. You may also have religious beliefs that restrict your ability to receive certain interventions. Including this information through abbreviations for medical alert bracelets can be lifesaving.  

  • NO MRI - for individuals with metal that would react to a magnetic scan
  • NO BLOOD - for individuals who cannot receive blood transfusions
  • DNR - for individuals who do not wish to receive CPR
  • DNI - for individuals who do not want to be intubated

It’s important to note that not all health care providers honor treatment restrictions listed on medical alert jewelry. These are major decisions that can have a lasting impact on your health. You should discuss the options available to you with your healthcare provider.

How to Indicate Other Important Health Information

You may want to indicate certain procedures that you have undergone to prevent surprising the medical team in an emergency. Individuals with amputations or prosthetic limbs can indicate this with the abbreviations BKA (below-the-knee amputation), AKA (above-the-knee amputation), and AFL (artificial limb).

Individuals with hip or knee replacements can list the procedure on medical jewelry using the abbreviation THR or TKR, respectively.

How to Wear Medical Alert Jewelry

You have many options when it comes to medical alert jewelry. From bracelets to necklaces, there’s a product for everyone. There are even high-tech or digital options.

The type of medical alert jewelry you choose may impact how beneficial it is. This is because there are no national guidelines when it comes to medical alert jewelry. First responders are trained to look for alert bracelets, but they are under no obligation to do so in emergencies.

You may not think that medical alert jewelry is necessary when you can store all your health information digitally on your phone. Many phones even have a medical alert application for this very purpose. However, locating your phone and completing the steps to gain access takes time. First responders don’t have time to waste during a medical emergency.

Highly visible medical alert jewelry such as a bracelet may be more effective than jewelry easily hidden under clothing, like a necklace. The same is true for medical alert jewelry that looks like a piece of fine jewelry. While it may be more comfortable for you to wear every day, it might be easy for paramedics to overlook.

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Jewelry That Could Save Your Life

Medical alert bracelets help you communicate critical health information in an emergency. While they aren’t necessary for everyone, those living with chronic health conditions should strongly consider investing in one. 

First responders are highly trained individuals who can quickly triage through any emergency situation to arrive at the correct diagnosis—however, every second counts when you are critically ill. A medical alert bracelet with the correct abbreviations can speed paramedics along in determining the right treatment for you.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Keith Morris is a 20+ year veteran of the security game, with the knowledge and experience to set you on the right track toward personal safety and security. His firm is committed to giving you the tools and know-how to combat any threat to your safety.

 keith morris //  Security Expert


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