Background: Apgar score is used for rapid assessment of newborns. Low five-minute Apgar score has been associated with increased risk of severe neurologic outcome, but data on milder outcomes, particularly in the long term, are limited. We aimed to examine the association of five-minute Apgar score with prevalence of neurologic disability and with cognitive function in early adulthood.
Methods: We conducted a prevalence study among draft-liable men born in Denmark in 1978-1983 and presenting for the mandatory army evaluation in a northern Danish conscription district. We linked records of this evaluation, which includes medical exam and intelligence testing, with the conscripts' records in the Medical Birth Registry, containing perinatal data. We examined prevalence of neurologic disability and of low cognitive function according to five-minute Apgar score.
Results: Less than 1% (136/19,559) of the conscripts had 5-minute Apgar scores <7. Prevalence of neurologic disability was 2.2% (435/19,559) overall; among conscripts with Apgar scores <7, 7-9, and 10 (reference), it was 8.8%, 2.5%, and 2.2% respectively. The corresponding prevalences of low cognitive function (intelligence test score in the bottom quartile) were 34.9%, 27.2%, and 25.0%. The outcomes were more prevalent if Apgar score <7 was accompanied by certain fetal or obstetric adversities. After accounting for perinatal characteristics, 5-minute Apgar score <7 was associated with prevalence ratios of 4.02 (95% confidence interval: 2.24; 7.24) for neurologic disability and 1.33 (0.94; 1.88) for low cognitive function.
Conclusion: A five-minute Apgar score <7 has a consistent association with prevalence of neurologic disability and with low cognitive function in early adulthood.