Facts about the Official “Do Not Use” List | Joint Commission
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Monday 1:54 CST, November 30, 2015

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Facts about the Official “Do Not Use” List of Abbreviations

June 30, 2015

The Joint Commission’s “Do Not Use” List is part of the Information Management standards. This requirement does not apply to preprogrammed health information technology systems (for example, electronic medical records or CPOE systems), but this application remains under consideration for the future. Organizations contemplating introduction or upgrade of such systems should strive to eliminate the use of dangerous abbreviations, acronyms, symbols and dose designations from the software.

Official “Do Not Use” List1

Do Not Use

Potential Problem

Use Instead

U, u (unit)


Mistaken for “0” (zero), the number “4” (four) or “cc”

Write "unit"

IU (International Unit)


Mistaken for IV (intravenous) or the number 10 (ten)

Write "International Unit"

Q.D., QD, q.d., qd (daily)


Q.O.D., QOD, q.o.d, qod

(every other day)

Mistaken for each other


Period after the Q mistaken for "I" and the "O" mistaken for "I

Write "daily"


Write "every other day"

Trailing zero (X.0 mg)*

Lack of leading zero (.X mg)

Decimal point is missed

Write X mg

Write 0.X mg




MSO4 and MgSO4

Can mean morphine sulfate or magnesium sulfate


Confused for one another

Write "morphine sulfate"

Write "magnesium sulfate"



1 Applies to all orders and all medication-related documentation that is handwritten (including free-text computer entry) or on pre-printed forms.

*Exception:  A “trailing zero” may be used only where required to demonstrate the level of precision of the value being reported, such as for laboratory results, imaging studies that report size of lesions, or catheter/tube sizes. It may not be used in medication orders or other medication-related documentation.

Development of the “Do Not Use” List
In 2001, The Joint Commission issued a Sentinel Event Alert on the subject of medical abbreviations. A year later, its Board of Commissioners approved a National Patient Safety Goal requiring accredited organizations to develop and implement a list of abbreviations not to use. In 2004, The Joint Commission created its “Do Not Use” List to meet that goal. In 2010, NPSG.02.02.01 was integrated into the Information Management standards as elements of performance 2 and 3 under IM.02.02.01.

For more information, contact the Standards Interpretation Group at 630-792-5900 or complete the Standards Online Question Submission Form.