Analyzing structural changes in SNOMED CT's Bacterial infectious diseases using a visual semantic delta

Christopher Ochs, James T. Case, Yehoshua Perl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Thousands of changes are applied to SNOMED CT's concepts during each release cycle. These changes are the result of efforts to improve or expand the coverage of health domains in the terminology. Understanding which concepts changed, how they changed, and the overall impact of a set of changes is important for editors and end users. Each SNOMED CT release comes with delta files, which identify all of the individual additions and removals of concepts and relationships. These files typically contain tens of thousands of individual entries, overwhelming users. They also do not identify the editorial processes that were applied to individual concepts and they do not capture the overall impact of a set of changes on a subhierarchy of concepts. In this paper we introduce a methodology and accompanying software tool called a SNOMED CT Visual Semantic Delta (“semantic delta” for short) to enable a comprehensive review of changes in SNOMED CT. The semantic delta displays a graphical list of editing operations that provides semantics and context to the additions and removals in the delta files. However, there may still be thousands of editing operations applied to a set of concepts. To address this issue, a semantic delta includes a visual summary of changes that affected sets of structurally and semantically similar concepts. The software tool for creating semantic deltas offers views of various granularities, allowing a user to control how much change information they view. In this tool a user can select a set of structurally and semantically similar concepts and review the editing operations that affected their modeling. The semantic delta methodology is demonstrated on SNOMED CT's Bacterial infectious disease subhierarchy, which has undergone a significant remodeling effort over the last two years.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)101-116
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Biomedical Informatics
StatePublished - Mar 1 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health Informatics
  • Computer Science Applications


  • Semantic delta
  • Terminology change analysis
  • Terminology change summary
  • Terminology diff
  • Terminology evolution


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