An iconic language for the Visualization of Concepts in Medicine

Lesson 3 : “Mister VCM”

“Mister VCM” groups together and organizes a set of VCM icons, according to anatomical and etiologicla criteria. “Mister VCM” is an anatomico-functional scheme divided in five parts: the head, thoughts, the trunk, the arm (which actually represents all the limbs) and a part exterior to the body, devoted to etiologies (since they often involve exterior agents, like bacteria). A location on the scheme is associated to each anatomico-functional pictogram, as following:

Anatomical locations that are associated with to several parts of the scheme have been placed at the most appropriate location: e.g. the skin pictogram is located in the arm, although it represents the skin of the whole body, and not only the skin of the arm.

“Mister VCM” can be used to summarize the contraindications or the adverse effects of a drug, to represent the main diseases or history of a patient. For example, the following “Mister VCM” represents the contraindications of the XYZ drug:



Some comments :

  • When you click on the icons shown on “Mister VCM”, the text corresponding to the icon is displayed on the right.
  • Pictograms that are not present on “Mister VCM”, such as the child pictogram, are added below when needed.
  • More precise pictograms used for specific disorders (e.g. the heart rhythm pictogram) are positioned on “Mister VCM” at the same position as on the more general pictogram (e.g. the heart pictogram for the heart rhythm pictogram).
  • Lung infection appears at two locations on “Mister VCM”: as a respiratory disease, and as an infectious disease.
  • These are two disorders involving the central nervous system (epilepsy and inflammation of the central nervous system). Since there is only a single place on the scheme, the two disorders are represented by a single, more general, icon: “central nervous system disorder”. A shadow is added to this icon, which indicates that there are several icons “stacked” at this position, and thus several disorders. When you click on this icon, the two texts corresponding to the two original icons are displayed.
  • When no information is available for a given anatomo-functional location, the corresponding pictogram is grayed on “Mister VCM”. Using these grayed pictograms, it is straightforward to spot the absence of contraindication.

Let’s see how to use “Mister VCM” in a clinical situation, by considering the following clinical case: Ms X, 65 years old, suffers from renal failure and osteoporosis. Can you prescribe her the drug XYZ?

For renal failure, we look at the kidney on “Mister VCM”. The kidney is grayed: thus, there is no contraindication. For osteoporosis, the bon icon (in the arm) indicate a contraindication. We can see the contraindication text by clicking on the icon. It includes osteoporosis and therefore we cannot prescribe drug XYZ to Ms X.

Anatomical regions

VCM provides pictograms for representing the main anatomical regions:

Abdominal pain
Edema located in the legs

Exercise 1

The following “Mister VCM” represents the contraindications for Stilnox(R) :



Use the “Mister VCM” above to answer the following questions about the clinical cases described:

Case #1: M. Y is 32 years old. He is HIV seropositive. Although appropriately treated, he is worried about his health, and suffers from depression and insomnia. Can you prescribe Stilnox(R) ?

(1-a) Yes Right answer!

(1-b) No Wrong answer!


Case #2: Ms Z is 38 years old, is regularly monitored for thyroid disorders. She comes to you for severe insomnia, that is associated with sleep apnea. Can you prescribe Stilnox(R)?

(2-a) Yes Wrong answer!

(2-b) No Right answer!


Exercise 2

The following “Mister VCM” represents the diseases of a patient:



Reply to the following questions:

Is this patient suffering from cardiac failure? (3-a) Yes Wrong answer! (3-b) No Right answer!
Is this patient suffering from osteitis deformans ? (4-a) Yes Right answer! (4-b) No Wrong answer!
Is this patient suffering from any infectious disease? (5-a) Yes Wrong answer! (5-b) No Right answer!
Is this patient suffering from an intestinal inflammation ? (6-a) Yes Wrong answer! (6-b) No Right answer!
Is this patient suffering from a tumor ? (7-a) Yes Right answer! (7-b) No Wrong answer!
Is this patient suffering from a nail disorder? (8-a) Yes Right answer! (8-b) No Wrong answer!