A COPD assessment test can help you communicate the severity of your condition to your doctor.

People with COPD have difficulties communicating with their doctors. It is difficult for doctors to determine how much COPD is affecting their patients. The communication between patients and their doctors is made clearer by the CAT.

The article will explore how doctors use the CAT and how you can use it to manage your COPD.

The CAT is a questionnaire that can help you and a doctor discuss the impact COPD has on your daily life.

It can be difficult to assign numeric values to many symptoms of COPD, such as shortness of breath or fatigue. Two people with the same level and severity of disease may perceive their experiences differently. How much those symptoms interfere with their daily activities may also differ.

The questions the CAT asks are followed by a score ranging from 0 to 5 for each area. There is no impairment if the score is 0 A score of 5 is severe impairment.

Your score will range from 0 to 40. Your COPD scores can indicate how well you are doing.

The CAT correlates with the Global Initiative for Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) strategy, which outlines an evidence-based plan for assessing and managing COPD.

The CAT isn’t designed to diagnose COPD. It shouldn’t replace other types of testing for this condition such as spirometry and lung function testing.

A limitation of the test as a treatment tool is that it relies on each person’s perception of the impact of their COPD symptoms. Despite this limitation, reviews of the CAT as a clinical tool have found that scores generally reflect an accurate level of disease severity and impact on quality of life.

You can either complete the assessment online or in the form of a questionnaire before your appointment with the doctor. The developers of the test suggest that you repeat the test every 2 to 3 months to help identify subtle changes in your disease.

You will give a score for eight different symptom areas and how severe they are as you complete the CAT. You will assign a 0 to items that have no impact on your life, and a 5 to items that have the most impact.

The CAT will ask you:

  • How often do you cough?
  • how much mucus is in your cough/chest
  • How much of a problem do you have in your chest?
  • how out of breath you feel after walking uphill or climbing stairs
  • How much of your condition limits your activities at home?
  • How safe are you leaving your home with COPD?
  • How well do you sleep?
  • How much energy do you have?

Your CAT score is the total of your scores from the eight assessed areas. The maximum score is 40.

Score Impact Meaning
0–9 Low You may not experience many COPD symptoms, or at least not severe enough to affect your daily activities. Most days are good, but you cough regularly and get tired easily.
10–20 Medium COPD symptoms affect your life regularly. You have some good days, but you get breathless easily and cough up phlegm regularly. You have 1 or 2 exacerbations each year.
21–30 High Your symptoms regularly prevent you from doing things you want to do. Regular day-to-day activities like getting dressed are tiring. You don’t feel in control of your chest problem.
31–40 Very high You never have any good days. It takes you a long time to complete even the simplest tasks. You feel like you can’t even leave the house.

Generally, the GOLD guidelines suggest using a CAT score of 10 or above to indicate symptomatic COPD.

Doctors don’t use the CAT to diagnose COPD or decide on your treatment. Still, a higher score can signal that your COPD has a greater impact on your quality of life and prompt your doctor to repeat or review other types of tests or assessments.

Your doctor may suggest some things based on your score.

Score Impact Guidance
0–9 Low • If you smoke, consider quitting
• Make sure you are vaccinated for flu, pneumonia, and COVID-19
• Avoid COPD triggers
10–20 Medium • All guidance for low impact CAT scores
• Pulmonary rehabilitation programs
• Additional medications
21–40 High or very high • All guidance for medium impact CAT scores
• Referrals to pulmonary specialists

The CAT score is not an official diagnostic tool, but it can help you and your doctor better understand and discuss the impact COPD has on your life as a whole. Specific symptoms are not measured by the questions on the test. They measure how much those symptoms affect you.

An increasing score can indicate to your doctor when you need more help with your condition.