In 1952, the Apgar score was created as a means to quickly assess how healthy a baby is after they are born. Dr. Apgar thought that the same signs that an anesthesiologist uses to monitor their patients during surgery could also be used to assess the health of a baby after birth and predict their chances of survival. The Apgar test is usually conducted between 1-5 minutes after the baby is born and it will be repeated if the baby continues to have a low score. The score is determined by an evaluation of the baby on five different criteria, given on a scale of 0 to 2 and then the scores are all added together. The five areas that are evaluated are:
- Appearance/ complexion
- Pulse rate
- Reflex irritability
- Respiratory effort
If the baby receives a score of 1-3, they are considered critically low. A score of 4-6 is considered to be below normal and anything above 7 is normal. If the baby receives a low score, it is very likely that they will need medical intervention. However, some of the criteria of the Apgar score are subjective and a baby may still require medical treatment even if they received a normal score.
If a baby continues to have a low score 10-30 minutes after they are born, there is a chance that they will suffer from long-term neurological damage, which can increase the risk of cerebral palsy. However, even if the baby receives a high Apgar score, it does not mean that they will not suffer from a brain injury. The Apgar score is simply a quick means of seeing if the baby requires immediate medical care, but should not be used to make a long-term prediction of how healthy the baby will be later in life.