Healthc Inform Res.  2012 Mar;18(1):3-9. 10.4258/hir.2012.18.1.3.

Medical Image Retrieval: Past and Present

  • 1Department of Nuclear Medicine, Gachon University Gil Hospital, Incheon, Korea.
  • 2Department of Internal Medicine, Gachon University Gil Hospital, Incheon, Korea.


With the widespread dissemination of picture archiving and communication systems (PACSs) in hospitals, the amount of imaging data is rapidly increasing. Effective image retrieval systems are required to manage these complex and large image databases. The authors reviewed the past development and the present state of medical image retrieval systems including text-based and content-based systems. In order to provide a more effective image retrieval service, the intelligent content-based retrieval systems combined with semantic systems are required.


Medical Image; Content-Based Image Retrieval; Text-Based Image Retrieval; SNOMED-CT; RadLex; Ontology

MeSH Terms

Radiology Information Systems


  • Figure 1 Classification of medical image retrieval methods.

  • Figure 2 Text-based query commonly retrieves irrelevant images on the internet web browser. For user query "bike (bicycle)," irrelevantly retrieved images (not relevant to bike) are shown because image annotations contain a word "bike" such as bike tour, school bike rack, water bike, abbreviation, etc. (upper two layers). Miscellaneous medical images retrieved by query of "Reconstruction and computed tomography (CT)" are displayed in the lower 3rd layer of the figure (CT for image reconstruction, 3-dimensional reconstruction CT image, CT reconstruction algorithm, bone reconstruction with CT, breast reconstruction using CT).

  • Figure 3 Image retrieval for medical applications (IRMA) content-based image retrieval results (

  • Figure 4 Flexible image retrieval engine (FIRE) content-based image retrieval results (

  • Figure 5 CliniClue Systematized Nomenclature of Medicine - Clinical Terms (SNOMED-CT) web browser (

  • Figure 6 Foundational model explorer browser (

  • Figure 7 Radiology Lexicon (RadLex) term browser (

  • Figure 8 An example of combined text and content-based medical image retrieval system - iPad, a plug-in to OsiriX, the application tool of Annotation and Image Markup Project [31].

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