What is the COPD Assessment Test?

Quincy AdamCOPD Learn

What is the COPD Assessment Test?
Since chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is progressive, it’s important that your physician have several means to test your lung function, screen for damage to lung tissue and detect associated heart disease. Some of the tests available include:

Spirometry—a pulmonary function test used to provide a clinical diagnosis of COPD by measuring how much air the lungs can hold and how quickly you can blow it out. It can test for COPD even before you notice symptoms.

Chest X-ray—can detect the presence of emphysema and rule out other forms of heart and lung disease.

CT scan—can screen lungs for emphysema and lung cancer and help doctors determine if surgery is either necessary or beneficial.

Arterial blood gas test—measures how efficiently your lungs are bringing oxygen into the blood and removing carbon dioxide.

But only recently have patients had means to measure the impact of COPD on their lives. Medical researchers and doctors in Europe introduced the COPD Assessment Test in 2009. It’s a simple, easy-to-use tool that both patients and their healthcare professionals can use in conjunction with other diagnostic tests to better manage COPD and assess the effect the disease has on day-to-day living.

COPD Assessment Test Identifies Areas of Health Impairment

In describing the COPD Assessment Test in the original article in the European Respiratory Journal, Professor Paul W. Jones, St. George’s University of London, Division of Cardiac and Vascular Science, explained the test:

“Will provide clinicians and patients with a simple and reliable measure of overall COPD-related health status for the assessment and long-term follow-up of individual patients. It is not a diagnostic tool; its role is to supplement information obtained from lung function measurement and evaluation of exacerbation risk. The content and layout of the CAT will allow identification of key areas of health impairment that the clinician can then explore further in the consultation.”1

While CAT tools are used in Europe, they have yet to become widely recognized in the United States. In September 2014, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) and the COPD Foundation announced the formation of an external Governance Board of experts to help make the COPD Assessment Test more universally available.2 The Board will help encourage CAT adoption, oversee translations into other languages, and develop digital applications available online. GSK owns the CAT.

How the COPD Assessment Test Works

The COPD Assessment Test uses questionnaires and statistical techniques to help understand and measure the impact of COPD on all aspects of life (physical and emotional). The entire CAT questionnaire consists of eight (8) easy-to-answer questions that address:

  • Frequency of coughing
  • Presence of mucus in the chest
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Shortness of breath while walking uphill or a flight of stairs
  • Limitations on activities at home
  • Confidence when leaving home
  • Ability to sleep soundly
  • Amount of energy

Respondents answer each of these questions using a six-point scale, selecting a number from 0 to 5, with 5 being the most severe. All answers are added up to determine the score (0 to 40), with higher scores indicating that COPD has more impact on the patient’s life. The score is used to measure and track changes, but there is not a target score used to grade best outcomes.

Use of the CAT, a simple questionnaire, to measure the impact of COPD on daily life continues to grow with healthcare professionals and patients.


1 P.W. Jones et al, “Development and First Validation of the COPD Assessment Test,” European Respiratory Journal, http://erj.ersjournals.com/content/34/3/648.full.pdf (2009)

2 GSK. GSK, GOLD and the COPD Foundation announce formation of a new external expert Governance Board for the COPD Assessment Test (CAT). http://www.gsk.com/en-gb/media/press-releases/2014/gsk-gold-and-the-copd-foundation-announce-formation-of-a-new-external-expert-governance-board-for-the-copd-assessment-test-cat/. Accessed 7.23.16.