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What’s new in 2013 DeCS

This article highlights the additions and changes in the DeCS vocabulary in 2013.


The 2013 release of the Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) includes improvements in a variety of areas including new ingredient identifiers from the FDA, a redesign of the Carboxylic Acids tree structure and new terms from the disease portion of the Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man (OMIM).



New Portuguese Orthography


The 2013 Portuguese MeSH and DeCS terms are in accordance with the rules of the new Portuguese orthography. Automated and manual review of descriptors, synonyms and notes was initiated in July 2012, and aimed to comply with the determination of Brazilian government's Decree 6583/08 to upgrade Portuguese orthography until December 31, 2012.


The Portuguese Language Orthographic Agreement of 1990 is an international treaty with the goal of unifying Portuguese orthography, to be used by all Portuguese-speaking countries. It was signed by official representatives from Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Portugal and Sao Tome and Principe, on December 16, 1990. East-Timor adhered to the Agreement in 2004, after its independence from Indonesia.



New Publication Type


A new publication type was included in the 2013 MeSH and DeCS: Personal Narratives, with its tree number consisting of V02.170.875.


Definition: Works consisting of accounts of individual experience in relation to a particular field or of participation in related activities.


Indexing annotaion: CATALOG: Use for single as well as for collections of self-described accounts on specific topics and for personal reminiscences on specific topics. Use AUTOBIOGRAPHY for self-described narratives of a person's life.


Its corresponding descriptor is also new: Personal Narratives as Topic, with its tree number consisting of K01.517.211.753.


Definition: Works about accounts of individual experience in relation to a particular field or of participation in related activities.



Overview of Vocabulary Development and Changes


  • 302 MeSH descriptors and 82 synonyms were added and translated to Spanish and Portuguese;
  • 3 DeCS descriptors were added;


Rebound Effect

Sexual Health

  • 26 MeSH descriptors and 22 DeCS descriptors were replaced with more up-to-date terminology in English
  • 161 DeCS descriptors had their Spanish version updated
  • 881 DeCS descriptors had their Portuguese version updated
  • 30 MeSH descriptors and 9 DeCS descriptors were eliminated
  • 9 MeSH synonyms were added in existent concepts and translated to Spanish and Portuguese;
  • 851 DeCS synonyms were added (of which 56 in English, 318 in Spanish, and 477 in Portuguese) in existent concepts
  • 302 definitions and 44 indexing annotations for the new MeSH concepts were translated to Spanish and Portuguese;
  • 203 definitions and 247 indexing annotations had their texts updated in English, Spanish and Portuguese.


The ten subcategories receiving the greatest additions were:

D12 - Amino Acids, Peptides, and Proteins (68);
E05 - Investigative Techniques (29);
N06 - Environment and Public Health (20);
D02 - Organic Chemicals (17);
E02 - Therapeutics (16);
E01 - Diagnosis (15);
D08 - Enzymes and Coenzymes (14);
D27 - Chemical Actions and Uses (14);
F01 - Behavior and Behavior Mechanisms (14)
E04 - Surgical Procedures, Operative (13).


Totals by Type of Terminology






Descriptors (per language)





Synonyms (per language, average)





Descriptors (eng + spa + por)





Synonyms (eng + spa + por)





Descriptors + Synonyms (eng + spa+ por)





eng=English; spa=Spanish; por=Portuguese



New Descriptors by Tree Category


DeCS/MeSH Tree Category

Number of descriptors

A – Anatomy


B – Organisms


C – Diseases


D – Chemicals and Drugs


E – Analytical, Diagnostic and Therapeutic Techniques and Equipment


F – Psychiatry and Psychology


G – Phenomena and Processes


H – Disciplines and Occupations


HP – Homeopathy


I – Anthropology, Education, Sociology and Social Phenomena


J – Technology, Industry, Agriculture


K – Humanities


L – Information Science


M – Named Groups


N – Health Care


SH – Science and Health


SP – Public Health


V – Publication Characteristics


VS – Health Surveillance


Z – Geographicals


The total is greater than the number of new descriptors because some of them occur in more than one category.

DeCS 2013 edition is available for online searching through the DeCS Search or directly from the Virtual Health Library homepage.



Helpful Links


Please consult the DeCS 2013 edition or the 2013 online Introduction to MeSH 2013 for more details. A complete list of new and changed vocabulary is available at these links:

Vocabulary Changes

New Descriptors by category

Replaced Descriptors

Deleted Descriptors

MeSH tree number changes

MeSH and DeCS tree number changes    same in xlsx

DeCS tree number changes    same in xlsx


Unique Ingredient Identifiers (UNIIs) added to MeSH Supplementary Concept Records

US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Unique Ingredient Identifiers (UNIIs) have been added to a subset of 2013 MeSH SCRs found to match FDA Substance Registration System (SRS) terminology. The UNIIs were inserted into the RN (Registry Number) field of MeSH chemical SCRs and serve as a new system of unique identifiers that will enhance existing Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS) registry numbers and Enzyme Commission (EC) numbers. MeSH terms that matched SRS terminology also received a Thesaurus ID of "FDA SRS (2013)" to indicate the MeSH year of the UNII insertion. In addition, Thesaurus IDs of USAN, USP, or INN sources were added for terms that matched those sources. The UNII insertion process maintained any replaced CAS registry number or EC number to Related Registry number (RR) fields in the MeSH record so that PubMed searches using these numbers will continue to work.

Summary of UNII Insertion Project

UNII identifiers added to RN fields


FDA SRS terms identified in MeSH


USAN terms identified in MeSH


USP terms identified in MeSH


INN terms identified in MeSH


For additional information see A New System of Registry Number Identifiers for Chemicals in the MeSH Database.

Redesign of the Carboxylic Acids Tree Structure in MeSH

We have simplified the Carboxylic Acids tree structure by consolidating several closely related descriptors. For example, the descriptor Benzoic Acids is deleted in 2013 MeSH and now appears as a subconcept in the descriptor Benzoates. Derivatives of benzoic acid such as Bromobenzoates are listed as descriptors under the common parent Benzoates and include their various salt and ester forms. Pairs of carboxylic acid headings that were consolidated include:

Consolidated Carboxylic Acid Pairs

Acetic Acids


Aminobenzoic Acids


Benzoic Acids


Butyric Acids


Crotonic Acids


Formic Acids


Glucuronic Acids


Hexanoic Acids


Hydroxybenzoic Acids


Octanoic Acids


Oxalic Acids


Oxaloacetic Acids


Phosphonic Acids


Propionic Acids


Salicylic Acids


Succinic Acids


Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man (OMIM)

MeSH uploaded the disease portion of the Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man (OMIM) database available in the Unified Medical Language System. OMIM is a database that catalogues human diseases with genetic components. Although OMIM disease names are available for searches in PubMed, it is often difficult to index and search for the articles on rare diseases with genetic components because of multiple synonyms used by different scientists that often do not overlap. As was done with NIH Office of Rare Diseases and Research (ORDR) disease terms (see What's New for 2010 MeSH for additional information), OMIM terms were compared to the existing MeSH descriptors and SCR records. When matches were found OMIM thesaurus tags were added to the matched MeSH record terms. Where there were no string matches, new disease SCRs were created and were mapped to descriptor(s) using the Heading Mapped to (HM) field. MeSH created 3,774 new disease SCRs, and identified and tagged 1,498 existing ORDR SCRs as rare diseases with genetic components during the OMIM load. All OMIM disease names therefore will be available starting with MeSH 2013 for indexers and searchers. The use of the HM field in the disease SCRs will lead to more consistent indexing and retrieval for rare genetic diseases.

There were 2,165 terms in 772 descriptors (MeSH headings) matching OMIM terms and therefore, tagged with the Thesaursus ID (TH)=OMIM (2013). An additional 10,286 terms in 5,453 total SCRs (6,331 terms in 3,774 new SCRs and 3,955 terms in 1,498 existing SCRs) were identified during the load. All newly created SCRs were reviewed and mapped to at least one disease descriptor.


Optic Atrophy 7 is a new SCR (C567833) made during OMIM loading and is heading mapped (HM) to Optic Atrophies, Hereditary (D015418) (see Figure 1). Optic atrophy 5, on the other hand, was an existing SCR introduced during ORDR loading, and because OMIM also has the term, an additional Thesaursus ID=OMIM (2013) was added to the SCR record.

Kjer-Type Optic Atrophy is a term in Optic Atrophy, Autosomal Dominant (D029241) and was identified as a disease with genetic components during OMIM load; therefore, an additional Thesaursus ID=OMIM (2013) was added to the term (see Figure 2).


Example of New DeCS-exclusive hierarchical codes

New hierarchical codes were added to the descriptors "Economic Cooperation" and "Regional Development", which in previous DeCS versions belonged only to SP4 and SP8 subcategories, respectively.



   Health Law [SP9]

      International Law [SP9.050]

         International Cooperation [SP9.050.030]

            Economic Cooperation [SP9.050.030.010]

               Regional Development [SP9.]

See Useful Links above for other hierarchical code changes.


The descriptor “Mercosur”, which was eliminated during revision of the SP category between 2004 and 2006, returned to DeCS base in the following structure:



   Health Law [SP9]

      International Law [SP9.050]

         International Cooperation [SP9.050.030]

            Economic Cooperation [SP9.050.030.010]

               Regional Development [SP9.]

                  Mercosur [SP9.]


Other pertinent articles:

MEDLINE/PubMed Year-End Processing Activities

2013 MeSH Now Available

Cataloging News 2013

MEDLINE Data Changes — 2013

What's New for 2013 MeSH

Newly Maintained MEDLINE for 2013 MeSH Now Available in PubMed



Schulman JL. What's New for 2013 MeSH®. NLM Tech Bull. 2012 Nov-Dec; (389):e5. Available on Internet:



Adaptation by:
Health Terminologies and Classifications Section at BIREME/PAHO/WHO


Date of update: February, 2013