Measuring respiratory symptoms in clinical trials of COPD: reliability and validity of a daily diary

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Although respiratory symptoms are characteristic features of COPD, there is no standardised method for quantifying their severity in stable disease.


To evaluate the EXACT-Respiratory Symptom (E-RS) measure, a daily diary comprising 11 of the 14 items in the Exacerbations of Chronic Pulmonary Disease Tool (EXACT).


Qualitative: patient focus group and interviews to address content validity. Quantitative: secondary data analyses to test reliability and validity.


Qualitative: n=84; mean (SD) age 65 (10) years, FEV1 1.2(0.4) L; 44% male. Subject descriptions of their respiratory symptoms were consistent with E-RS content and structure. Quantitative: n=188; mean (SD) age 66 (10) years, FEV1 1.2(0.5) L; 50% male. Factor analysis (FA) showed 3 subscales: RS-Breathlessness, RS-Cough & Sputum, and RS-Chest Symptoms; second-order FA supported a general factor and total score. Reliability (total and subscales): 0.88, 0.86, 0.73, 0.81; 2-day test-retest ICC: 0.90, 0.86, 0.87, 0.82, respectively. Validity: Total scores correlated significantly (p < 0.0001) with SGRQ Total (r=0.75), Symptoms (r=0.66), Activity (r=0.57), Impact (r=0.70) scores; subscale correlations were also significant (r=0.26, p < 0.05 (RS-Chest Symptoms with Activity) to r=0.69, p < 0.0001 (RS-Cough & Sputum with Symptoms). RS-Breathlessness correlated with rescue medication use (r=0.32, p < 0.0001), clinician-reported mMRC (r=0.33, p < 0.0001), and FEV1% predicted (r=-0.17, p < 0.05). E-RS scores differentiated groups based on chronic bronchitis diagnosis (p < 0.01–0.001), smoking status (p < 0.05–0.001), and rescue medication use (p < 0.05–0.0001).


Results suggest the RS-Total is a reliable and valid instrument for evaluating respiratory symptom severity in stable COPD. Further study of sensitivity to change is warranted.

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