Last revised by Arlene Campos on 31 May 2024

RadLex is a lexicon of radiological information that has been produced by the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).  It is an ontological system whose principle aim is to develop a useful vocabulary for radiologists. 

"As images, imaging reports, and medical records move online, radiologists need a unified language to organize and retrieve them. Radiologists use a variety of terminologies and standards, but no single lexicon serves all of their needs. RSNA RadLex is a single unified source of radiology terms that is designed to fill this need.

Beginning in 2005, RSNA convened experts in imaging informatics and radiological subspecialties to create this resource, which is now made freely available to the healthcare community. RadLex has developed into a rich, structured radiology-specific ontology, which includes more than 30,000 terms."

Broadly speaking, it is separated into dependent and independent constituents. This may not appear to be an obvious initial separation, but is based on the underlying idea that a term (or "entity") may exist in a state that is independent from another (e.g. anatomy, imaging acquisition) or be dependent on an "independent entity", e.g. pathology, procedure, imaging observation.

One of the most interesting parts of the ontology is the pathology section which details the relationships between pathology as experienced in clinical practice.

  • dependent continuant

    • pathophysiologic process

    • procedure

    • procedure step

    • Radlex descriptor

    • imaging observation

  • independent continuant

    • medical object

    • report component

    • anatomical entity

    • imaging acquisition

    • substance

    • foreign body

    • imaging modality

    • report

That's all well and good, but what earthly good is such a system? Well, the proposal is that it will be helpful in many situations:

  • automatic order entry decision support

  • vendor independent "protocoling" of complex imaging exams

  • reliable PACS display layouts

  • no need to re-dictate lengthy imaging technique sequences

  • improved speech recognition accuracy

  • speech-enabled structured reporting to satisfy regulatory requirements

  • real-time decision support for the radiologist

  • rapid teaching file creation

  • accurate report search and data mining

Some of this may be specific to the Americas, but there will be a worldwide interest in such a system.

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