Assessment Tools

Assessment Tools

Dyspnea Assessment Tools

Functional Dyspnea Scale

Functional Dyspnea Scale


Not troubled with breathlessness except with strenuous exercise.


Troubled by shortness of breath when hurrying on the level or walking up a slight hill.


Walks slower than people of the same age on the level because of breathlessness or has to stop for breath when walking at own pace on the level.


Stops for breath after walking about 100 meters or after a few minutes on the level.


Too breathless to leave the house or breathless when dressing or undressing. Standards for the Diagnosis and Treatment of Patients with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) Section 1.
Most terminally ill patients have dyspnea at rest or on minimal exertion (functional scale level 4).
Source: Bartolome R. Celli, M.D. Standards for the Diagnosis and Treatment of Patients with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).

Number Counting

Ask the patient to read aloud numbers from a list in a period of 60 seconds. The number of numbers read and the numbers read per breath over 60 seconds is practical, easy to carry out and may be a useful objective measure of the limiting effect of breathlessness in patients with dyspnea (Wilcock 1999).

Breath Holding

Ask patients to hold their breath and note the time in seconds. Breath holding time is often lesser for patients with dyspnea compared to normal subjects. This is another simple and objective measure of dyspnea in patients with advanced illness (Taskar 1995).

Symptom Assessment Tools

Memorial Symptom Assessment Scale (MSAS)

Memorial Symptom Assessment Scale (MSAS)

(Portenoy 1994)

PDF Forms: Memorial Symptom Assessment ScaleShort FormSubscales

Karnofsky Performance Scale

Karnofsky Performance Scale
Description — Level of Functional Capacity
Normal, no complaints, no evidence of disease
Able to carry on normal activity, minor signs or symptoms of disease
Normal activity with effort, some signs or symptoms of disease
Cares for self, unable to carry on normal activity or to do active work
Requires occasional assistance, but is able to care for most needs
Requires considerale assistance and frequent medical care
Disabled, requires special care and assistance
Severely disabled, hospitalization is indicated although death is not imminent
Hospitalization is necessary, very sick, active supportive treatment necessary
Moribund, fatal processes progressing rapidly
Source: Karnofsky, DA, Burchenal, JH. The Clinical Evaluation of Chemotherapeutic Agents in Cancer. Pg. 196. IN: MacLeod CM (Ed), Evaluation of Chemotherapeutic Agents. Columbia Univ Press, 1949.
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