The Apgar score, devised in 1952 by Dr Virginia Apgar, is a quick method of assessing the state of the newborn infant.1,2 The ease of scoring has led to its use in many studies of outcome. However, its misuse, as in current International Classification of Diseases, revision 9, coding, has led to an erroneous definition of asphyxia.* Although the Apgar score continues to provide a convenient shorthand for reporting the state of the baby and the effectiveness of resuscitation, the purpose of this statement is to place the Apgar score in its proper perspective as a tool for assessing asphyxia and for prognostication of future neurologic deficit.
The Apgar score is comprised of five components: heart rate, respiratory effort, tone, reflex irritability, and color, each of which can be given a score of 0, 1, or 2 (Table).
FACTORS THAT MAY AFFECT THE APGAR SCORE
Although rarely stated, it is important to recognize that elements of the score such as tone, color, and reflex irritability are partially dependent on the physiologic maturity of the infant. The normal premature infant may thus receive a low score purely because of immaturity with no evidence of anoxic insult or cerebral depression.
Maternal sedation or analgesia may decrease tone and responsiveness. Neurologic conditions such as muscle disease or cerebral malformations may decrease tone and interfere with respiration. Cardiorespiratory conditions may interfere with heart rate, respiration, and tone. Thus, to equate the presence of a low Apgar score solely with asphyxia represents a misuse of the score.
- Copyright © 1986 by the American Academy of Pediatrics