A subset in which the members are represented by enumeration.
Figure 2.1.1-1: Illustration of an extensionally defined subset
A subset definition in which the membership is represented by a set of rules specifying the conditions for inclusion.
Figure 2.1.1-2: Illustration of an intensionally defined subset
Extensionally defined subsets of SNOMED CT components consist of a list of SNOMED CT component identifiers, which are typically either concept or description identifiers. Extensionally defined SNOMED CT subsets are formally represented using the simple reference settype.
Figure 2.1.1-3: Illustration of an extensionally defined subset of SNOMED CT concepts
The design of SNOMED CT lends itself to intensional subset definitions, because rules can be formulated to specify the conditions for member inclusion. The subtype hierarchy and formal definitions of SNOMED CT concepts enable constraints to be specified, such as:
Concepts that are descendants of a particular concept.
Concepts that share a set of defining characteristics.
Concepts that are members of a particular subset AND share one or more defining characteristics.
For example: ^ 450984003 |Symptoms and signs reference set for GP/FP health issue| AND < 95324001 |Skin lesion| (i.e. all members of the 450984003 | Symptoms and signs reference set for GP/FP health issue| which are also descendants of 95324001 | Skin lesion| )
Intensionally defined SNOMED CT subsets are formally represented using a query specification reference set. The query string in this reference set represents the intensional definition of the subset. The standard way of representing the query is using the SNOMED CT Expression Constraint Language (ECL).
The substrate is the superset of members to which an intensional subset definition is applied. Related to subsets of SNOMED CT components the 'Substrate' is the SNOMED CT content against which an intensional query is executed. Typically, the substrate is a specified version of a particular SNOMED CT Edition. Regardless of whether the subset members are intentionally defined or extensionally defined it is important to be specific about the substrate used to generate the subset, because the result of running a query, or manually selecting the subset members, may vary depending on the substrate used.
The expansion is the result of applying an intensional definition to a given substrate. The Expansion may differ depending on the substrate that the query is run against. The expansion that results from running the query against a specific SNOMED CT substrate can be represented extensionally as a simple reference set. Alternatively, the expansion may be computed dynamically or represented in an internal format within a software application.
For more information about the process and methods for developing subsets and reference sets, see the section about refset development.
Figure 2.1.1-4: Illustration of a substrate, intentional subset definition and expansion