Acronyms dictionary


What does NPO mean?

NPO is a medical term that means “(take) nothing by mouth.”

Where does NPO come from?

Examples of NPO

“'You can eat' after a day of npo is the. best. news.”
@live_laugh_kiss Twitter (February 20, 2017)
“You’re about to walk into your patient’s room with a syringe full of insulin. The unit secretary shouts, ‘Hey. The physician just made your patient NPO.’ what?”
Renee Thompson, “To Hold or Not to Hold: Understanding Insulin,” New Nurse Success Shop (September 13, 2013)
“For hospital patients, an NPO order is a condemnation. It translates to wasting away on an intravenous drip while your roommate bitches about the vulcanized chicken on his tray. I have been NPO since the operation.”
Jon Reiner, “The Man Who Couldn't Eat,” Esquire (August 17, 2009)

Who uses NPO?

NPO is used by nurses and doctors in medical environments, in order to identify and list patients who should not receive fluid or solids by mouth. Patients are listed as NPO when they are scheduled for surgery, since medical recommendations are for a patient to eat and drink nothing by mouth for a period of time before the operation. This was historically ordered through the phrase NPO at (or past) midnight, but more recently NPO followed by a specified timeframe appropriate for the patient.

An NPO instruction may be called for in other medical cases, such as bowel obstruction, gastrointestinal bleeding, or nasogastric or intestinal tube feeding.

In cases where a patient is likely to resist or forget the NPO order, such as when the patient has dementia, medical professionals will often use the NPO phrase as a noun, or an attribution of the person’s identity. For example, “Don’t give pudding to Tom, he’s an NPO.” This labeling is often viewed negatively by the patient and family of patient.

Patients can also be NPO ahead of a surgery, which they often use in discussion of the difficulty of not eating or drinking for an extended period of time.

NPO is also an unrelated abbreviation for nonprofit organization.

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This is not meant to be a formal definition of NPO like most terms we define on, but is rather an informal word summary that hopefully touches upon the key aspects of the meaning and usage of NPO that will help our users expand their word mastery.