An Enriched Unified Medical Language System Semantic Network with a Multiple Subsumption Hierarchy

Li Zhang, Yehoshua Perl, Michael Halper, James Geller, James J. Cimino

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Objective: The Unified Medical Language System's (UMLS's) Semantic Network's (SN's) two-tree structure is restrictive because it does not allow a semantic type to be a specialization of several other semantic types. In this article, the SN is expanded into a multiple subsumption structure with a directed acyclic graph (DAG) IS-A hierarchy, allowing a semantic type to have multiple parents. New viable IS-A links are added as warranted. Design: Two methodologies are presented to identify and add new viable IS-A links. The first methodology is based on imposing the characteristic of connectivity on a previously presented partition of the SN. Four transformations are provided to find viable IS-A links in the process of converting the partition's disconnected groups into connected ones. The second methodology identifies new IS-A links through a string matching process involving names and definitions of various semantic types in the SN. A domain expert is needed to review all the results to determine the validity of the new IS-A links. Results: Nineteen new IS-A links are added to the SN, and four new semantic types are also created to support the multiple subsumption framework. The resulting network, called the Enriched Semantic Network (ESN), exhibits a DAG-structured hierarchy. A partition of the ESN containing 19 connected groups is also derived. Conclusion: The ESN is an expanded abstraction of the UMLS compared with the original SN. Its multiple subsumption hierarchy can accommodate semantic types with multiple parents. Its representation thus provides direct access to a broader range of subsumption knowledge.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)195-206
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of the American Medical Informatics Association
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2004

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health Informatics


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