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In this paper, the authors present a new reversible decorrelation method of three-dimensional (3-D) medical images for progressive transmission. Progressive transmission of an image permits gradual improvement of image quality while being displayed. When the amount of image data is very large, as a 3-D medical image, the progressive transmission plays an important role in viewing or browsing the image. The data structure presented in this paper takes account of interframe correlation as well as intraframe correlation of the 3-D image. This type of data structure has been termed the 3-D hierarchy embedded differential image (3-D-HEDI) as was derived from the earlier HEDI structure (Kim et al., 1995). Experiments were conducted to verify the performance of 3-D HEDI in terms of the decorrelation efficiency as well as the progressive transmission efficiency. It is compared with those of conventional hierarchy interpolation (HINT), two-dimensional (2-D) HEDI and differential pulse code modulation (DPCM). Experimental results indicate that 3-D HEDI outperforms HINT, 2-D HEDI and DPCM in both decorrelation efficiency as well as the progressive transmission efficiency on 3-D medical images.