APGAR Score


Article Author:
Leslie Simon
Muhammad Hashmi


Article Editor:
Bradley Bragg


Editors In Chief:
David Wood
Andrew Wilt
Hajira Basit


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Avais Raja
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Radia Jamil
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Hassam Zulfiqar
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Hussain Sajjad
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Muhammad Hashmi
John Shell
Matthew Varacallo
Heba Mahdy
Ahmad Malik
Abbey Smiley
Sarosh Vaqar
Mark Pellegrini
James Hughes
Beenish Sohail
Hajira Basit
Phillip Hynes
Sandeep Sekhon


Updated:
9/29/2019 7:58:28 PM

Introduction

In 1952, Dr. Virginia Apgar, an anesthesiologist at Columbia University, developed the Apgar score. The score is a rapid method for assessing a neonate immediately after birth and in response to resuscitation.  Apgar scoring remains the accepted method of assessment and is endorsed by both the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Academy of Pediatrics. While originally designed to assess the need for intervention to establish breathing at 1 minute, the guidelines for the Neonatal Resuscitation Program9NRP) state that Apgar scores do not determine the initial need for intervention as resuscitation must be initiated before the 1-minute Apgar score is assigned.[1][2][3]

Elements of the Apgar score include color, heart rate, reflexes, muscle tone, and respiration. Apgar scoring is designed to assess for signs of hemodynamic compromise such as cyanosis, hypoperfusion, bradycardia, hypotonia, respiratory depression, or apnea. Each element is scored 0 (zero), 1, or 2. The score is recorded at 1 minute and 5 minutes in all infants with expanded recording at 5-minute intervals for infants who score seven or less at 5 minutes, and in those requiring resuscitation as a method for monitoring response. Scores of 7 to 10 are considered reassuring.

Apgar scores may vary with gestational age, birth weight, maternal medications, drug use or anesthesia, and congenital anomalies. Several components of the score are also subjective and prone to inter-rater variability. Thus, the Apgar score is limited in that it provides somewhat subjective information about an infant’s physiology at a point in time. It is useful in gauging the response to resuscitation but should not be used to extrapolate outcomes, particularly at 1 minute as this does not hold any long-term clinical significance. Apgar score alone should not be interpreted as evidence of asphyxia and its significance in outcome studies while widely reported is often inappropriate. Resuscitation should always take precedence over calculating a clinical score. 

Indications

Apgar scoring is recorded in all newborn infants at 1 minute and 5 minutes. In infants scoring less than 7, expanded Apgar score recording is encouraged by the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology and the American Academy of Pediatrics as a method of monitoring response to resuscitation.

Contraindications

There are no known contraindications to APGAR scoring in the evaluation of newborns.

Equipment

Auscultation with a stethoscope rather than by palpitation of a pulse best assesses heart rate. No other equipment is required. Auscultation is a more accurate way to count the pulse as compared to palpation of an umbilical or brachial pulse. A pulse oximeter may also be used. Ideally, radiant warmer should be readily available in the delivery suite, to provide the necessary warmth for neonates with hypothermia. Alternatively, warm blankets could be used.

Personnel

  • Neonatologist
  • Nurse practitioner
  • Family physician
  • Midwife

Technique

There are five parts of an Apgar score. Each category is weighted evenly and assigned a value of 0, 1, or 2. The components are then added together to give a total score that is recorded at 1 and 5 minutes after birth. A score of 7 to 10 is considered reassuring, a score of 4 to 6 is moderately abnormal, and a score of 0 to 3 is deemed to be low in full-term and late preterm infants. At 5 minutes, when an infant has a score of less than 7, Neonatal Resuscitation Program guidelines recommend continued recording at 5-minute intervals up to 20 minutes. It should be noted that scoring during resuscitation is not equivalent to that of an infant not undergoing resuscitation because resuscitative efforts alter several elements of the score.[4][5]

The score is calculated as follows:

Breathing Effort

  • If the infant is not breathing, the respiratory score is 0.
  • If respirations are slow and irregular, weak or gasping, the respiratory score is 1.
  • If the infant is crying vigorously, the respiratory score is 2.

Heart Rate

  • Note, heart rate is evaluated with a stethoscope, and it is the most critical part of the score in determining the need for resuscitation.
  • If there is no heartbeat, the heart rate score is 0.
  • If the heart rate is less than 100 beats per minute, the heart rate score is 1.
  • If the heart rate is more than 100 beats per minute, the heart rate score is 2.

Muscle Tone

  • If the muscle tone is loose and floppy without activity, the score for muscle tone is 0.
  • If the infant demonstrates some tone and flexion, the score for muscle tone is 1.
  • If the infant is in active motion with a flexed muscle tone that resists extension, the score for muscle tone is 2.

Grimace Response or Reflex Irritability in Response to Stimulation

  • If there is no response to stimulation, the reflex irritability response score is 0.
  • If there is grimacing in response to stimulation, the reflex irritability response score is 1.
  • If the infant cries, coughs, or sneezes on stimulation, the reflex irritability response is 2.

Color

  • Note, most infants will score 1 for color as peripheral cyanosis is common among normal infants. Color can also be misleading in non-white infants.
  • If the infant is pale or blue, the score for color is 0.
  • If the infant is pink, but the extremities are blue, the score for color is 1.
  • If the infant is entirely pink, the score for color is 2.

Clinical Significance

Apgar scores were designed to help identify infants that require respiratory support or other resuscitative measures, not as an outcome measure. The Apgar score alone should not be considered evidence of asphyxia or proof of an intrapartum hypoxic event. A low Apgar score of 0 to 1 at 1 minute is not predictive of adverse clinical outcome or long-term health issues since most infants, even those with very low 1-minute scores will have normal scores by 5 minutes. Low Apgar scores at 5 minutes correlate with mortality and may confer an increased risk of cerebral palsy in population studies but not necessarily with an individual neurologic disability. Most infants with low Apgar scores do not go on to develop cerebral palsy, but lower scores over time increase the population risk of the poor neurologic outcome. Scores less than five at 5 and 10 minutes correlate with an increased relative risk of cerebral palsy. Neonates with scores less than five at 5 minutes should have umbilical artery blood gas sampling performed. Apgar scores that remain at 0 after 10 minutes may indicate that the termination of resuscitative efforts is appropriate as very few infants survive with good neurologic outcomes if no heart rate has been detectable for over 10 minutes.[6]

The Apgar score alone should not be considered as evidence of asphyxia or evidence of an intrapartum hypoxic event. A low Apgar score of 0 to 1 at 1 minute is not predictive of adverse clinical outcome or long-term health issues since most infants, even those with very low 1-minute scores will have normal scores by 5 minutes. Low Apgar scores at 5 minutes correlate with mortality and may confer an increased risk of cerebral palsy in population studies but not necessarily with an individual neurologic disability.

Enhancing Healthcare Team Outcomes

Apgar scoring may be performed by a physician, midwife, or nurse. Inter-rater variability is quite common as some components of the score are subjective, so ideally, the same person should calculate the initial and ongoing scores for consistency. The nurse has a crucial role in evaluating neonates using the APGAR score, and she should inform the clinician of any untoward changes in the APGAR score of the newborn. The nurse should document the findings of the APGAR score at 1 minute and 5 minutes, respectively. The nurse assists the clinician in the initial resuscitative measures of the neonates, particularly if they have low APGAR scores. The interprofessional team should communicate the findings of the resuscitation efforts to the woman and her family and should formulate a care plan to neonates with low APGAR scores. The nurse should collaborate with the clinician to address any concerns, the woman and her family might have. The nurse should provide the woman with the necessary information leaflets about neonatal care. Patient education is key to the successful management of neonates with low APGAR scores. The best possible standard of care could only be achieved through coordinated collaboration and clear communication among the members of the interprofessional team.  [level V]

Nursing Actions and Interventions

Nurses looking after newborns should be familiar with the Apgar score. Also, they should know what the score signifies. Nurses should understand that a score between 7-10 is normal; a score between 4-6 needs proper reevaluation as the infant does require monitoring for 5 minutes. A score of less than 3 is never good, and immediate attention is mandatory. The nurse should call a code and inform the clinician immediately.

Nursing Monitoring

  • APGAR scoring at 1 and 5 minutes
  • General condition of the neonate
  • Vital signs of the newborn
  • Umbilical cord pH
  • Arterial blood gases of the newborn

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APGAR Score - Questions

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A 28-year-old primigravid woman is admitted to the delivery suite. She reports an uneventful antenatal course. She gave birth to a male newborn, weighs about 3.2 kilograms. The baby cries immediately after birth, and he is pink in color. The newborn has a heart rate of 134 bpm. The nurse calculated his assessment score and assigned him a score of 9. What is the most likely parameter that this score represents?



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The provider was called to see a 22-year-old primigravid patient who just delivered two hours ago. The woman gave birth to a female infant, weighing 3.4 kilograms. Immediately after birth, the nurse assessed the neonate and assigned her an APGAR score of 9 at 1 minute. In addition to being reported at 1 minute after birth, the Apgar score is reported at which of the following times?



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An infant with a heart rate of 165 bpm is crying, has good tone, and sneezes when a catheter is placed in the nares; however, the infant also has peripheral cyanosis. Which of the following is the infant's APGAR score?



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A 28-year-old primigravid woman presents to the labor and delivery suite with the fetal head crowned on the perineum. The provider was called to assess the neonate, who is found to have normal physical exam findings and a heart rate of 60 bpm. What is the Apgar score of this newborn?



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At birth, a newborn male is pink, cries when stimulated, and requires routine care. What is his one-minute Apgar score?



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A 27-year-old primigravid woman presents in active labor. Two hours later, she delivers a male infant weighing about 4 kilograms. She reports a history of type 2 diabetes mellitus that is controlled on diet and lifestyle modification. Upon examining the neonate, the provider notices that the infant is pink all through with acrocyanosis, a pulse of 95 beats/min, a loud cry, prompt response to stimulation, and moving all extremities. What is his assigned score?



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What APGAR score requires immediate resuscitation?



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A 25-year-old primigravid woman pregnant at 37 weeks of gestation presents to the labor and delivery suite in labor. She gives birth to a male neonate, weighs about 3.9 kilograms. The clinician was called to assess him and calculate his one minute APGAR score. On assessment, the following findings were noted: heart rate 135 bpm, pink body and hands with cyanotic feet, active movement and crying when stimulated, weak cry, flexion of the arms and legs. Which of the following would describe this neonate's APGAR score?



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When a newborn, just delivered a minute ago, appears pink, is crying and moving actively, retracts to stimuli, and has a heart rate of 120 beats per minute. What should be the assigned APGAR score?



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A 39-year-old G3P2 presents to the labor and delivery suite in active labor. The provider was called to examine the newborn. An APGAR score of 4 was assigned to the newborn. Which of the following is associated with an Apgar score of 4 at 1 minute?



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A 42-year-old multigravid woman presents to the labor and delivery suite in active labor. Upon arrival at the L&D suite, she delivers a male infant weighing 2.5 kilograms. His APGAR score is zero at 1 and 5 minutes, respectively. What does an Apgar score of zero at 10 minutes indicate?



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A 34-year-old second gravida is admitted to the labor and delivery suite. Upon assessment of her 3.2-kilogram male infant, the provider assigned him an APGAR score of 6 at 1 minute and seven at five minutes. Which is true of an Apgar score of 7 at 1 minute?



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Apgar scoring is a fundamental part of neonatal assessment after birth. The score is calculated based on five components. What descriptions regarding the Apgar scoring system are correct? Select all that apply.



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A nurse who is working in a labor and delivery unit is asked to measure the Apgar score for a newborn infant. What are the initial times the neonate is evaluated for an Apgar score? Select all that apply.



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Which of the following are measured in determining an Apgar score? Select all that apply.



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APGAR Score - References

References

Medeiros TKS,Dobre M,da Silva DMB,Brateanu A,Baltatu OC,Campos LA, Intrapartum Fetal Heart Rate: A Possible Predictor of Neonatal Acidemia and APGAR Score. Frontiers in physiology. 2018     [PubMed]
Yeagle KP,O'Brien JM,Curtin WM,Ural SH, Are gestational and type II diabetes mellitus associated with the Apgar scores of full-term neonates? International journal of women's health. 2018     [PubMed]
Ayrapetyan M,Talekar K,Schwabenbauer K,Carola D,Solarin K,McElwee D,Adeniyi-Jones S,Greenspan J,Aghai ZH, Apgar Scores at 10 Minutes and Outcomes in Term and Late Preterm Neonates with Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy in the Cooling Era. American journal of perinatology. 2018 Sep 12     [PubMed]
Day KE,Prince AC,Lin CP,Greene BJ,Carroll WR, Utility of the Modified Surgical Apgar Score in a Head and Neck Cancer Population. Otolaryngology--head and neck surgery : official journal of American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery. 2018 Jul     [PubMed]
Gillam-Krakauer M,Gowen Jr CW, Birth Asphyxia null. 2018 Jan     [PubMed]
Nair A,Bharuka A,Rayani BK, The Reliability of Surgical Apgar Score in Predicting Immediate and Late Postoperative Morbidity and Mortality: A Narrative Review. Rambam Maimonides medical journal. 2018 Jan 29     [PubMed]

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