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Apgar Score

An indication of a newborn infant's overall medical condition.

The Apgar Score is the sum of numerical results from tests performed on newborn infants. The tests were devised in 1953 by pediatrician Virginia Apgar (1909-1974). The primary purpose of the Apgar series of tests is to determine as soon as possible after birth whether an infant requires any medical attention, and to determine whether transfer to a neonatal (newborn infant) intensive care unit is necessary. The test is administered one minute after birth and again four minutes later. The newborn infant's condition is evaluated in five categories: heart rate, breathing, muscle tone, color, and reflexes. Each category is given a score between zero and two, with the highest possible test score totaling ten (a score of 10 is rare, see chart). Heart rate is assessed as either under or over 100 beats per minute. Respiration is evaluated according to regularity and strength of the newborn's cry. Muscle tone categories range from limp to active movement. Color— an indicator of blood supply—is determined by how pink the infant is (completely blue or pale; pink body with blue extremities; or completely pink). Reflexes are measured by the baby's response to being poked and range from no response to vigorous cry, cough, or sneeze. An infant with an Apgar score of eight to ten is considered to be in excellent health. A score of five to seven shows mild problems, while a total below five indicates that medical intervention is needed immediately.

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Psychology EncyclopediaPsychological Tests & Methods