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The Apgar score is determined by evaluating the newborn baby on five simple criteria on a scale from zero to two and summing up the five values thus obtained. The resulting Apgar score ranges from zero to 10. The five criteria were used as a mnemonic learning aid.
|Score of 0||Score of 1||Score of 2||Acronym|
|Skin color||blue all over||blue at extremities||normal||Appearance|
|Reflex irritability||no response|
|Muscle tone||none||some flexion||active movement||Activity|
|Respiration||absent||weak or irregular||strong||Respiration|
Interpretation of scores
The test is generally done at one and five minutes after birth, and may be repeated later if the score is, and remains, low. Scores below 3 are generally regarded as critically low, with 4 to 7 fairly low and over 7 generally normal.
Low scores at the one minute test may require medical attention, but are not an indication of longer term problems, particularly if there is an improvement by the stage of the five minute test. If the Apgar score remains below 3 at later times such as 10, 15, or 30 minutes, there is a risk that the child will suffer longer term neurological damage. There is also a small but significant increase in the risk of cerebral palsy. However, the purpose of the Apgar test is to determine quickly whether a newborn needs immediate medical care; it was not designed to make long-term predictions on a child's health.
Some ten years after the initial publication, the acronym APGAR was coined in the US as a mnemonic learning aid: Appearance (skin color), Pulse (heart rate), Grimace (reflex irritability), Activity (muscle tone), and Respiration. The mnemonic was introduced in 1963 by the pediatrician Dr. Joseph Butterfield. The same acronym is used in German (Atmung, Puls, Grundtonus, Aussehen, Reflexe), although the letters have different meanings. In Spanish it has the same meaning (Apariencia, Pulso, Gesticulación, Actividad, Respiración)
Another such backformation attempting to make Apgar an acronym is American Pediatric Gross Assessment Record. The test, however, is named for Dr. Apgar.
- Apgar, Virginia. A proposal for a new method of evaluation of the newborn infant, Curr. Res. Anesth. Analg. 1953;32, pp. 260–267. PMID 13083014
- Finster M, Wood M.The Apgar score has survived the test of time. Anesthesiology. 2005 Apr;102(4):855-7. PMID 15791116
- Casey BM, McIntire DD, Leveno KJ. The continuing value of the Apgar score for the assessment of newborn infants. N Engl J Med. 2001 Feb 15;344(7):467-71. PMID 11172187
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