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One purpose of the Unified Medical Language System (UMLS) is to facilitate conversion of terms from one controlled medical vocabulary to another. We examined our ability to convert International Classification of Diseases, 9th Edition, Clinical Modifications (ICD9-CM) to Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) using the UMLS. We describe a method which mapped 30.4% of ICD9-CM to UMLS. Of these, 95.0% were linked to MeSH, of which translation was straightforward in 90.4%. We discuss the use of these translations for retrieval from MeSH-indexed databases, such as Medline.