Apgar Score Law and Legal Definition

The apgar score is a simple and quick method of assessing the health of a newborn child immediately after its birth. This method was devised in 1952 by Dr. Virginia Apgar. Dr. Apgar first developed the score to understand the effects of obstetric anesthesia on babies. In the U.S., apgar scores are often taken into account while deciding the liability of a doctor in medical malpractice cases.

The apgar score is the first test given to a newborn. Apgar test are usually performed in the delivery or birthing room. The apgar score is reached by evaluating the newborn on five simple criteria on a scale from zero to two, and then summing up the five values obtained. The result of an apgar score ranges from zero to 10. The Apgar test is usually conduted twice after the birth: a) one minute after birth, and b) 5 minutes after birth. If the first two scores are low, a third test may be performed after 10 minutes of the newborn’s birth. In apgar tests, five factors are used to evaluate a newborn’s condition. Each factor is scored on a scale of 0 to 2, with 2 being the best score. The five factors measured are: activity and muscle tone; pulse (heart rate); grimace response (reflex irritability); appearance (skin coloration); respiration.

The following is an example of a case law defining the term:

Apgar scores are a means of "assessing how well the baby is doing when it is delivered." Apgar measures five components of a newborn: heart rate, respiratory effort, muscle tone, reflex irritability, and color. Each component carries a maximum score of two, and a minimum score of zero, so that a maximum Apgar score is ten. [Hudson v. Lenz, 2004 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 3725 (California Unpublished Opinions 2004)]