Common Health Questions

How do I understand my medical test results?

Your GP will explain what your test results mean. They can also explain what any medical abbreviations stand for. 

Some abbreviations commonly used in medical tests are explained below.

  • BP - blood pressure. It is usually written as one number over another; for example, if you have a reading of 140/90 or more, you have high blood pressure (HBP, or hypertension). If you have a reading of 90/60 or less, you have low blood pressure (LBP, or hypotension).
  • CVS - chorionic villus sampling. This is a test available to pregnant women that can detect Down's syndrome (a disorder which affects a child's physical and mental development), cystic fibrosis (a genetic disorder which affects the lungs), and other foetal disorders.
  • ECG or EKG - electrocardiogram. This is an electrical recording of your heart. This test is often used if you have high blood pressure, or heart disease.
  • FBC - full blood count. This is a blood test that is used to determine your general health and to identify conditions such as anaemia, which causes you to have fewer red blood cells than normal. RBC means red blood cell count, and WBC means white blood cell count.
  • HbA1c test - this is a blood test that measures your recent average blood glucose level. It is used in the treatment of diabetes.
  • hCG test - this is the medical name for a pregnancy test. It is usually involves taking a urine sample, but sometimes can also include a blood test.
  • IVP - intravenous pyelogram. This is an X-ray study of your urinary system.
  • LFTs - liver function tests. These are blood tests to check that your liver is working properly.
  • MSU - mid-stream specimen of urine. This is a urine test used to check for urine infections. It is taken halfway through the stream of urine. Your GP, or practice nurse, will explain how it is done.
  • PAP - this is another name for the cervical screening test. A sample of cells from your cervix is taken to test for pre-cancerous cells. Most women between the ages of 25-64 have a cervical screening test every 3-5 years.
  • PSA - prostate specific antigen. This is a blood test that can detect prostate disorders, including prostate cancer (a cancer that only affects men).
  • TFTs - thyroid function tests. These are blood tests to check that your thyroid gland is working properly.
  • TIBC - total iron-binding capacity. This is a blood test is used to detect anaemia and other blood disorders.
  • U&Es - urea and electrolytes. This is a blood test that looks at your body's blood chemistry to assess fluid and mineral levels. It helps a doctor to understand how your kidneys and metabolism (energy levels) are working.

Other abbreviations:

  • B12 - B12 is a vitamin. If you do not have enough of this vitamin, you may become anaemic.
  • CT scan or CAT scan - computerised tomography scan. This scan takes a series of X-rays of your body at slightly different angles, and then joins them together to produce very detailed images of the inside of your body.
  • D&C - dilatation and curettage. This is a surgical procedure to obtain tissue from the lining of the uterus.
  • LDL/HDL - low density lipoprotein/high density lipoprotein. These refer to the two types of cholesterol that are found in the blood. You may see these abbreviations if you have a blood test to measure your blood cholesterol level.
  • MRI scan - magnetic resonance imaging scan. This scan uses a strong magnetic field and radio waves to produce detailed pictures of the inside of your body.
  • STI - sexually transmitted infection.
Last Updated: 21 November 2011