Don't Be Scared of This COPD Test

COPD assessment test measures exacerbation length and lung function

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Understanding how severe a Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) flare up may be can help lead to better treatment. A free and simple test is doing just that for doctors and COPD sufferers.

The COPD assessment test (CAT) is a short questionnaire that measures exacerbation severity. This can give doctors a better understanding of a patient's COPD and lead to better treatment.

"Ask your doctor about lung function tests that can help treat COPD."

The CAT study was led by Dr. Alex J Mackay, M.B.B.S., M.R.C.P., from the Academic Unit of Respiratory Medicine at University College London. The test consists of eight questions about cough, phlegm, sleep level, activity limitations, chest tightness, breathlessness and energy level. Researchers used CAT to diagnose COPD exacerbation severity on 161 patients and was completed by 75 COPD patients while undergoing treatment for a COPD exacerbation.

The CAT has been medically validated and used in previous COPD studies to measure COPD symptoms in a hospital and in a home setting.

COPD exacerbation led to an increase in the CAT score. Patients had filled out the questionnaire beforehand to create a baseline measurement. COPD exacerbation increased the baseline score. The increased CAT score due to COPD exacerbation was linked to a decrease in forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1) scores.

The FEV1 test is used to measures lung capacity by testing how much air one can forcibly exhale in one second. A decrease in the FEV1 indicates worsening obstructive disease.

Recovery time was also related to the CAT score. COPD patients filled out cards that measured how long it took for their COPD to return to normal. The amount of time it took for the CAT score taking during a COPD exacerbation to return to the baseline CAT score was linked to the recovery time of COPD patients.

Exacerbation length and lung function can be measured the CAT according to Dr. Mackay. Doctors can use the CAT to help treat COPD patients. Researchers can also use CAT during trials to measure COPD treatment effectiveness.

For doctors, the CAT is free and easy to administer. Answering a few questions can be a part of the normal routine of a doctor during a COPD patient's visit and could lead to better treatment. 

The study was funded by MRC Patient Research Cohort Initiative as well an unrestricted educational grant from GlaxoSmithKline. No author conflicts were published.

The study was published in the January edition of American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
January 27, 2012
Last Updated:
February 1, 2012