Installing MIMIC-III in a local Postgres database

Prerequisites: This tutorial assumes that you have already completed the steps required to gain access to the MIMIC dataset on PhysioNet.

Note that this install was written and tested using Mac OS X and Ubuntu 15.04. If you feel there are key details missing, please raise an issue with your suggested improvements - we would love to incorporate them!

There are two options for installing MIMIC-III locally in a PostgreSQL database:

  1. Manually, by following the tutorial below
  2. Automatically, using the make files available in the mimic-code repository

These steps are roughly equivalent, though you may learn more about the database configuration by installing the data manually.

0. Prepare

Note that before proceeding with this tutorial you will need to:

  1. Download the MIMIC-III Clinical Database (see here for details on gaining access).
  2. Place the MIMIC-III Clinical Database as either .csv or .csv.gz files somewhere on your local computer.
  3. Download the PostgreSQL scripts from here - only the files which end in .sql are required.

It’s easiest to move all the MIMIC data files and the scripts to load the data into a single folder (usually called the working directory). Most of the commands below will assume that files are located in the current folder.

1. Install Postgres

Postgres (also known as PostgreSQL) is a database management system. To create an instance of MIMIC-III on your local machine, you’ll first need to make sure that Postgres is installed. For installation, please refer to:

On Mac OSX with the Homebrew package manager, simply type brew install postgres. On Ubuntu Linux, try sudo apt-get install postgresql.

2. Place the CSV data files in a local directory

Assuming that you have completed the steps required to gain access to the MIMIC dataset, you should be able to access the CSV data files on PhysioNet at:

Download these files to a local folder and decompress them if desired (it is possible to load the data directly into a database from compressed data files). The program gzip can be used to decompress the data (e.g. gzip -d *.gz).

3. Create a user to access the data

It’s bad practice to use a superuser account for day to day querying as you may accidentally drop raw data or something similar which would take effort to rectify.

To avoid this issue, we will create a user account on the database with the same username as the operating system user. To find out the local operating system username, type the following in the terminal:


That should return a username. For the rest of this tutorial, we will use mimicuser, but it’s recommended to replace this with your local username. If you do, you can use operating system authentication and avoid having to password protect the user for the database. We can use a terminal command to create the user:

createuser -P -s -e -d mimicuser

This user is a superuser - we will remove this privilege later.

4. Connect to the database with psql

Now that Postgres is running, you should be able to connect to the system using the psql command line tool. With new installations, the default database name is ‘postgres’, so try connecting with:

# connect to the default database 'postgres'
psql -U username -d postgres

5. Create an empty database containing a MIMIC-III schema

From this point onwards we will be referring to scripts in the ‘buildmimic’ directory of the MIMIC code repository. You should have already downloaded the SQL scripts to your working directory.

After connecting with psql, create a new database called “mimic”:

CREATE DATABASE mimic OWNER mimicuser;

Note that postgres uses the public schema by default. We recommend creating an independent schema to host the data. To do this, create the mimiciii schema:

\c mimic;

In the future, you will need to inform postgres that it should use the mimiciii schema.

set search_path to mimiciii;

You will need to run the above every time you launch psql.

7. Create a set of empty tables on a mimiciii schema, ready to populate with the data

Refer to the ‘postgres_create_tables’ script in the MIMIC code repository to create the mimiciii schema and then build a set of empty tables. Each table is created by running a CREATE TABLE command in psql.

First, exit from psql with \q which should bring you back to the shell command prompt. Now run the “postgres_create_tables.sql” script as follows:

# Run the following command to create tables on the mimiciii schema
# postgres_create_tables.sql must be in your local directory
psql 'dbname=mimic user=mimicuser options=--search_path=mimiciii' -f postgres_create_tables.sql

If the script runs successfully, you should see the following output:

... etc

If you get the error postgres_create_tables.sql: No such file or directory that means that the file postgres_create_tables.sql is not in your current directory. Either download the file to the local directory, or specify the directory in the above command.

If you see warnings about being unable to drop tables, don’t worry, this is expected (see #224).

8. Import the CSV data files into the empty tables

Using the Postgres COPY or \COPY commands, you should now be able to import the CSV data into the empty set of tables. You can run the “postgres_load_data.sql” script from the command prompt using:

# Load the data into the mimic database
# Replace <path_to_data> with the directory containing the MIMIC-III CSV files
psql 'dbname=mimic user=mimicuser options=--search_path=mimiciii' -f postgres_load_data.sql -v mimic_data_dir='<path_to_data>'

If the script runs successfully, you should see the following output:

COPY 58976
COPY 34499
COPY 7567
... etc

Importing the data can be slow, particularly for larger tables like CHARTEVENTS which may take several hours.

Note also that above, we have included a line which states COPY 0. This is expected: CHARTEVENTS acts as a “mapping” table to multiple sub-tables, and no data is actually stored within it, so postgres reports that 0 rows were inserted. This is expected behaviour for CHARTEVENTS.

9. Add indexes to improve performance

Indexes provide additional structure for the database that can help to improve the speed of queries. The MIMIC code repository includes a script with a set of suggested indexes. As before, you can run this script from the command line:

# create indexes
psql 'dbname=mimic user=mimicuser options=--search_path=mimiciii' -f postgres_add_indexes.sql

10. Run checks

We have included a script which verifies all rows have been loaded in. Run those checks now:

# create indexes
psql 'dbname=mimic user=mimicuser options=--search_path=mimiciii' -f postgres_checks.sql

If all tables have the expected number of rows, you should see the phrase ‘PASSED’ for every table.

11. MIMIC-III is ready for analysis

You should now have a working copy of MIMIC-III ready to query with the psql command line tool. First start the PSQL client from the command line:

psql 'dbname=mimic user=mimicuser options=--search_path=mimiciii'

Before going further, you should grant all privileges needed to the mimic user, then revoke the superuser privilege:

grant select on all tables in schema mimiciii to mimicuser;
grant usage on schema mimiciii to mimicuser;
grant connect on database mimic to mimicuser;
alter user mimicuser nosuperuser;

Now try, for example, counting the number of patients in the database:

select count(subject_id)
from mimiciii.patients;

Note that, because we specified the search_path in the connection string above (--search_path=mimiciii), we can omit it in the query:

select count(subject_id)
from patients;

12. Install a graphical user interface (optional)

It is sometimes convenient to use a graphical user interface (GUI) for working with the database. There are a few options here: