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Definition of Apgar

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Apgar: Abbreviation for the Apgar score, a practical method of evaluating the physical condition of a newborn infant shortly after delivery. The Apgar score is a number arrived at by scoring the heart rate, respiratory effort, muscle tone, skin color, and response to a catheter in the nostril. Each of these objective signs can receive 0, 1, or 2 points.

A perfect Apgar score of 10 means an infant is in the best possible condition. An infant with an Apgar score of 0-3 needs immediate resuscitation.

The Apgar score is done routinely 60 seconds after the birth of the infant and then it is commonly repeated 5 minutes after birth. In the event of a difficult resuscitation, the Apgar score may be done again at 10, 15, and 20 minutes.

An Apgar score of 0-3 at 20 minutes of age is predictive of high morbidity (disease) and mortality (death).

The score is named for the preeminent American anesthesiologist Virginia Apgar (1909-1974) who invented the scoring method in 1952. Having assisted at thousands of deliveries, Dr. Apgar wished to focus attention on the baby. Babies were traditionally dispatched directly to the nursery, often without much formal scrutiny after delivery. Apgar wanted the baby to be assessed in an organized meaningful manner by the delivery room personnel. Dr. Apgar was the first woman to be appointed a full professor at Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons.

Reviewed on 12/4/2018

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