Defining Chronic Mucus Hypersecretion Using the CAT in the SPIROMICS Cohort

Marni Stott-Miller, Hana Müllerová, Bruce Miller, Maggie Tabberer, Céline El Baou, Tom Keeley, Fernando J. Martinez, Meilan Han, Mark Dransfield, Nadia N. Hansel, Christopher B. Cooper, Prescott Woodruff, Victor E. Ortega, Alejandro P. Comellas, Robert Paine, Richard E. Kanner, Wayne Anderson, M. Bradley Drummond, Victor Kim, Ruth Tal-SingerAili L. Lazaar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Chronic cough and phlegm are frequently reported chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) symptoms. Prior research classified chronic mucus hypersecretion (CMH) based on the presence of these symptoms for ≥3 months, called chronic bronchitis (CB) if respiratory infection symptoms were present for 1–2 years (Medical Research Council [MRC] definition). We explored whether the COPD Assessment Test (CAT), a simple measure developed for routine clinical use, captures CMH populations and outcomes similarly to MRC and St. George’s Respiratory Questionnaire (SGRQ) definitions. Methods: We identified CMH in the SPIROMICS COPD cohort using (a) MRC definitions, (b) SGRQ questions for cough and phlegm (both as most/several days a week), and (c) CAT cough and phlegm questions. We determined optimal cut-points for CAT items and described exacerbation frequencies for different CMH definitions. Moderate exacerbations required a new prescription for antibiotics/oral corticosteroids or emergency department visit; severe exacerbations required hospitalization. Results were stratified by smoking status. Results: In a population of 1431 participants (57% male; mean FEV1 % predicted 61%), 47% and 49% of evaluable participants had SGRQ-or CAT-defined CMH, respectively. A cut-point of ≥2 for cough and phlegm items defined CMH in CAT. Among SGRQ-CMH+ participants, 80% were also defined as CMH+ by the CAT. CMH+ participants were more likely to be current smokers. A higher exacerbation frequency was observed for presence of CMH+ versus CMH− in the year prior to baseline for all CMH definitions; this trend continued across 3 years of follow-up, regardless of smoking status. Conclusion: Items from the CAT identified SGRQ-defined CMH, a frequent COPD trait that correlated with exacerbation frequency. The CAT is a short, simple questionnaire and a potentially valuable tool for telemedicine or real-world trials. CAT-based CMH is a novel approach for identifying clinically important characteristics in COPD that can be ascertained in these settings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2467-2476
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of COPD
StatePublished - 2020


  • CAT
  • COPD
  • Cough
  • Exacerbation
  • Phlegm
  • SGRQ

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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