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Terms are character strings that consist of words, phrases and other human-readable representations that convey the meanings of concepts. A term in connection to a particular concept is called a description.

Each descriptions has a description type and may be marked a preferred for use in particular languages or dialects. There are two commonly used description types, Fully Specified Name(FSN) and Synonym. A Synonym that is marked as preferred for use in a particular language or dialect is preferred to as a Preferred Term. A description may be a Preferred Term in one dialect and a synonym in another dialect. This is indicated by references to the description from the Language Reference Set for that language or dialect.

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Fully Specified Name

Each concept has at lease one Fully Specified Name(FSN) intended to provide an unambiguous way to name a concept. The purpose of the FSN is to uniquely describe a concept and clarify its meaning. The FSN is not a commonly used term or natural phrase and would not be expected to appear in the human-readable representation of a clinical record.

A concept may have more than one FSN, but only one of these may be marked as preferred in a given language. A Language Reference Set is used to specify which FSN descriptions is preferred in each language or dialects. The original fully specified name(the first FSN created for a concept) is the ultimate source of reference, if FSNs in different languages have conflicting meanings. Most original FSNs are in US English and, as many translators choose not translate FSNs, the original FSN is preferred by default.

Note: The term in each FSN is unique across the entire active content of a SNOMED CT release.

Each FSN term ends with a "semantic tag" in parentheses. The semantic tag indicates the semantic category to which the concept belongs (e.g. clinical finding, disorder, procedure, organism, person, etc.). The "semantic tag" helps to disambiguate different concepts which may be referred to by the same commonly used word or phrase.

Example: 35566002 |Hematoma (morphologic abnormality)|is the FSN of the concept that represents the "hematoma" that a pathologist sees at the tissue level. In contrast, 385494008 |Hematoma (disorder)|is the FSN of the concept that represents the clinical diagnosis that a clinician makes when they decide that a person has a "hematoma".

Synonym

A synonym represents a term, other than the FSN, that can be used to represent a concept in a particular language or dialect.

Each concept one or more descriptions of type synonym in each language. A description of type synonym contains a term that represents a word or phrase, other than the term in the fully specified name that can be used to represent a concept. One synonym for each concept is marked as preferred in each dialect and the associated term is called the preferred term for that concept.

The use of a description can vary between different languages, dialects and contexts, so a description may be preferred in some dialects, acceptable for use in other dialects and may not used in some dialects. A Language Reference Set is used to specify the descriptions that are acceptable or preferred in each language or dialect.

Example: Synonyms of the concept 22298006 |myocardial infarction (disorder)|in English include:

The synonym 22298006 |myocardial infarction|( Description.id: 37436014) is marked as preferred in the US English Language Reference Set. Thus in US English this is the preferred term.

Note: Unlike fully specified names, synonyms are not required to be unique.

Preferred Term

The preferred term is the preferred common word or phrase used by clinicians to name that concept in a particular language, dialect or context. Each concept has one to more descriptions of type synonym in each language. In each language or dialect one of these description is marked as preferred and is the preferred term for that concept.

The use of a description can vary between different languages, dialects and contexts, so a description may be preferred in some dialects, acceptable for use in other dialects and may not used in some dialects. A Language Reference Set is used to specify the descriptions that are acceptable or preferred in each language or dialect.

Example: The concept 54987000 |repair of common bile duct (procedure)|has a description of type synonym 54987000 |choledochoplasty|. This is marked as preferred in the US English Language Reference Set. Therefore, 54987000 |choledochoplasty|is the preferred term for this concept in US English.

Note: Unlike the fully specified name(FSN) the preferred terms need not be unique. Occasionally, the preferred term for one concept may also be a synonym for a different concept. Interpretation in these cases will depend on context of use.

Example:

In both cases, "cold" represents a common clinical phrase used to capture the meaning of the concept.

Note: Selection of one term over another as "preferred" in a given language dialect depends entirely on whose preferences are being expressed. Different users are likely to have different preferences, and implementers are encouraged to select terms that properly represent the concept and meet the preferences of users. There is no expectation that the preferred term distributed with a given language dialect will meet all use cases; nor is there anything sacrosanct about the term. The US English preferred term has no special status relative to other terms. Rather, it is merely one term that properly represents the concept and can be used as a starting point.


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