Background: The COPD Assessment Test (CAT) is responsive to change in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). However, the minimum clinically important difference (MCID) has not been established. We aimed to identify the MCID for the CAT using anchor-based and distribution-based methods.
Methods: We did three studies at two centres in London (UK) between April 1, 2010, and Dec 31, 2012. Study 1 assessed CAT score before and after 8 weeks of outpatient pulmonary rehabilitation in patients with COPD who were able to walk 5 m, and had no contraindication to exercise. Study 2 assessed change in CAT score at discharge and after 3 months in patients admitted to hospital for more than 24 h for acute exacerbation of COPD. Study 3 assessed change in CAT score at baseline and at 12 months in stable outpatients with COPD. We focused on identifying the minimum clinically important improvement in CAT score. The St George's Respiratory Questionnaire (SGRQ) and Chronic Respiratory Questionnaire (CRQ) were measured concurrently as anchors. We used receiver operating characteristic curves, linear regression, and distribution-based methods (half SD, SE of measurement) to estimate the MCID for the CAT; we included only patients with paired CAT scores in the analysis.
Findings: In Study 1, 565 of 675 (84%) patients had paired CAT scores. The mean change in CAT score with pulmonary rehabilitation was -2·5 (95% CI -3·0 to -1·9), which correlated significantly with change in SGRQ score (r=0·32; p<0·0001) and CRQ score (r=-0·46; p<0·0001). In Study 2, of 200 patients recruited, 147 (74%) had paired CAT scores. Mean change in CAT score from hospital discharge to 3 months after discharge was -3·0 (95% CI -4·4 to -1·6), which correlated with change in SGRQ score (r=0·47; p<0·0001). In Study 3, of 200 patients recruited, 164 (82%) had paired CAT scores. Although no significant change in CAT score was identified after 12 months (mean 0·6, 95% CI -0·4 to 1·5), change in CAT score correlated significantly with change in SGRQ score (r=0·36; p<0·0001). Linear regression estimated the minimum clinically important improvement for the CAT to range between -1·2 and -2·8 with receiver operating characteristic curves consistently identifying -2 as the MCID. Distribution-based estimates for the MCID ranged from -3·3 to -3·8.
Interpretation: The most reliable estimate of the minimum important difference of the CAT is 2 points. This estimate could be useful in the clinical interpretation of CAT data, particularly in response to intervention studies.
Funding: Medical Research Council and UK National Institute of Health Research.
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