The trilingual and structured vocabulary
DeCS - Health Sciences Descriptors - was created by BIREME
to serve as a unique language in indexing articles from scientific
journals, books, congress proceedings, technical reports, and
other types of materials, as well as for searching and retrieving
subjects from scientific literature from information sources available
on the Virtual Health Library (VHL)
such as LILACS,
It was developed from the MeSH
- Medical Subject Headings of the U.S. National Library
of Medicine (NLM) with the purpose of permitting the use of
common terminology for searching in three languages, providing
a consistent and unique environment for the retrieval of information
regardless of the language.
DeCS is part of the LILACS
Methodology and is an integrating component of the Virtual
DeCS participates in the unified terminology development project,
UMLS - Unified
Medical Language System of the NLM, with the responsibility
of contributing with the terms in Portuguese and Spanish.
BIREME also developed terminology in specific areas such as Public
Health, Homeopathy, Science and Health, and Health Surveillance
in addition to the original MeSH terms.
The concepts that characterize the DeCS vocabulary are organized
in a tree structure
allowing a search on broader or narrower terms or on all terms
from the same tree within the hierarchical structure.
DeCS is a dynamic vocabulary totaling 32,481 descriptors, of
which 27,883 come from MeSH, and 4,600 are exclusively DeCS. There
is an addition of 2,123 hierarchic codes from DeCS categories
in 1,534 MeSH descriptors. The following are the DeCS categories
and their total number of descriptors: Health Surveillance (825);
Homeopathy (1,948), Public Health (3,477); and Science and Health
(217). The sum is greater than the total number of descriptors,
since a descriptor may occur more than once in the hierarchy.
By being dynamic, it records a permanent process of change including
the development of new areas of terminology.
With the creation of the national, institutional and thematic VHLs,
search strategies were made available in the various topics in
order to facilitate the retrieval of the existing literature.
The updating annually performed in MeSH and the modifications
also carried out in the other DeCS categories, demand the revision
and update of the search strategies on the thematic areas of each
BVS, especially the ones including hierarchical codes. Therefore,
it is advised that the team responsible for their creation also
make sure that these strategies can be revised annually before
implementing them. Read text on how
to revise strategies used in searching thematic areas of a VHL.
Date of last update: March, 2016