How to Calculate the Karnofsky Score

Updated February 21, 2017

Evaluating a patient using the Karnofsky score assesses the function of a patient with regard to a debilitating disease such as cancer. The Karnofsky scale describes the quality of life a patient possesses and the ability of the patient to carry out activities on a scale of 0 per cent to 100 per cent. The scale uses descriptions within categories to indicate the level of patient wellness. Calculating a patient's Karnofsky score assists in tracking the progression of a disease and helps gauge the effects of various treatments, by comparison, on patient improvement and overall health.

Classify the patient in one of three categories by evaluating the patient's activity level and necessity for outside care by questioning and examining the patient. The three categories describe the patient as: able to carry on normal activity and work without special care; unable to work yet able to live at home and care for personal needs with some assistance; or unable to care for self and requiring institutional or hospital care.

Refer to the Karnofsky performance status score definitions (see Resources) to find an accurate description of the patient's functionality within the category he falls under. A patient able to carry on normal activity and work has a functionality within the 80 per cent to 100 per cent range on the Karnofsky scale. A patient unable to work yet able to provide personal care functions within the 50 per cent to 70 per cent range. A patient unable to care for himself functions between 0 per cent and 40 per cent.

Match and mark the specific function criteria within the category to find the patient's percentage score. A score of 100 per cent means the patient has no complaints or signs of disease. A 90 per cent score means the patient exhibits minor signs and symptoms. An 80 per cent score describes a patient who continues normal activity with effort and shows some signs and symptoms of the disease. A score of 70 per cent defines a patient who can care for himself but is unable to work and be active. A 60 per cent score means the patient requires occasional assistance; 50 per cent means the patient requires frequent assistance and medical care; 40 per cent describes a disabled patient; 30 per cent indicates severely disabled and in need of hospital care; 20 per cent indicates a very sick patient in need of active treatment and hospital care; 10 per cent describes a patient approaching death; and O per cent indicates a dead patient.

Things You'll Need

  • Karnofsky performance status score definitions
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Taylor DiVico is a professional songwriter, content writer, fiction novelist and poet with more than 15 years of experience. DiVico holds a B.A. in philosophy from the University of Rhode Island and an M.S. from Syracuse University.