International Classification of Diseases (ICD)

The ICD has become the international standard diagnostic classification for all general epidemiological and many health management purposes.


The first edition, known as the International List of Causes of Death, was adopted by the International Statistical Institute in 1893. World Health Organization (WHO) took over the responsibility for the ICD at its creation in 1948 when the Sixth Revision, which included causes of morbidity for the first time, was published. The 10th edition, ICD-10,  was endorsed by the Forty-third World Health Assembly in May 1990 and came into use in WHO Member States as from 1994.


Bowker (1998) offers a formal reading of the ICD. The argument is made that this classification scheme retains many traces of its own administrative and organizational past in its current form. Further, it is argued that such traces operate normatively to favor certain kinds of narrative of medical treatment while denying others. It is suggested that the ICD, like other large-scale classification systems, is able to do its work so effectively precisely because these traces permit a coupling of classification scheme and organizational form.








Bowker, G. C. (1998). The Kindness of Strangers: Kinds and Politics in Classification Systems. Library Trends, 47(2), 255-292. (Reprinted as Chapter 2, pp. 53-106 in: Bowker, G. & Star, SL. (2000). Sorting Things Out: Classification and its Consequences. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press).


Wikipedia. The free encyclopedia. (2006). ICD.


World Health Organization (1978). Mental disorders; glossary and guide to their classification in accordance with the ninth revision of the International Classification of Diseases. Geneva: World Health Organization (WHO).


World Health Organization (1979). International Classification of Diseases. 9th edition. Geneva: World Health Organization (WHO).


International Classification of Diseases:


History of the development of the ICD.


Current version:




See also: Medicine; Psychiatry




Birger Hjørland

Last edited: 24-01-2008