Semantic enrichment for medical ontologies

Yugyung Lee, James Geller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


The Unified Medical Language System (UMLS) contains two separate but interconnected knowledge structures, the Semantic Network (upper level) and the Metathesaurus (lower level). In this paper, we have attempted to work out better how the use of such a two-level structure in the medical field has led to notable advances in terminologies and ontologies. However, most ontologies and terminologies do not have such a two-level structure. Therefore, we present a method, called semantic enrichment, which generates a two-level ontology from a given one-level terminology and an auxiliary two-level ontology. During semantic enrichment, concepts of the one-level terminology are assigned to semantic types, which are the building blocks of the upper level of the auxiliary two-level ontology. The result of this process is the desired new two-level ontology. We discuss semantic enrichment of two example terminologies and how we approach the implementation of semantic enrichment in the medical domain. This implementation performs a major part of the semantic enrichment process with the medical terminologies, with difficult cases left to a human expert.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)209-226
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Biomedical Informatics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2006

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Computer Science Applications
  • Health Informatics


  • Controlled Medical Vocabularies
  • Ontology
  • Semantic Web
  • Semantic enrichment
  • Semantics
  • Terminology
  • Two-level ontology
  • Unified Medical Language System


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