The cohesive metaschema: A higher-level abstraction of the UMLS Semantic Network

Yehoshua Perl, Zong Chen, Michael Halper, James Geller, Li Zhang, Yi Peng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


The Unified Medical Language System (UMLS) joins together a group of established medical terminologies in a unified knowledge representation framework. Two major resources of the UMLS are its Metathesaurus, containing a large number of concepts, and the Semantic Network (SN), containing semantic types and forming an abstraction of the Metathesaurus. However, the SN itself is large and complex and may still be difficult to view and comprehend. Our structural partitioning technique partitions the SN into structurally uniform sets of semantic types based on the distribution of the relationships within the SN. An enhancement of the structural partition results in cohesive, singly rooted sets of semantic types. Each such set is named after its root which represents the common nature of the group. These sets of semantic types are represented by higher-level components called meta-semantic types. A network, called a metaschema, which consists of the meta-semantic types connected by hierarchical and semantic relationships is obtained and provides an abstract view supporting orientation to the SN. The metaschema is utilized to audit the UMLS classifications. We present a set of graphical views of the SN based on the metaschema to help in user orientation to the SN. A study compares the cohesive metaschema to metaschemas derived semantically by UMLS experts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)194-212
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Biomedical Informatics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2002

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health Informatics
  • Computer Science Applications


  • Abstraction
  • IS-A relationship
  • Metaschema
  • Partitioning
  • Semantic Network
  • Semantic type
  • UMLS


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