Objective: The Apgar score is well-characterized in full-term infants but not in premature infants. The objective of this study was to assess the Apgar score in preterm infants with respect to the relationships between the 1- and 5-minute scores, the correlation of the Apgar score with pH and with other variables, and the relationship among the individual Apgar components.
Methodology: We recorded Apgar scores at 1 and 5 minutes in a population-based cohort of preterm infants (n = 1105) with birth weight <2000 g, from three intensive care nurseries in central New Jersey. Linear correlation analysis was used to examine the relationship between 1- and 5-minute Apgar scores and between the individual components of the Apgar score. Multiple regression analysis was used to explore the relationship between various perinatal characteristics and the Apgar score, and between pH and Apgar score. Stepwise logistic regression analysis was used to assess the determinants of mortality.
Results: The 1-minute Apgar score median (25%, 75%) was 6(4,8) and correlated with the 5-minute score of 8(7,9) at r = .78. Slight but significant differences were seen between male (n = 557) and female (n = 508) infants in the 1-minute (6[4,8] and 7[4,8]) Apgar scores. One- and 5-minute scores of white infants (7[4,8] and 8[7,9]; n = 713) were significantly higher than those of black infants (5[3,7] and 8[6,9]; n = 280). Birth weight and gestational age were both linearly related to both Apgar scores. Low Apgar score (<3 at 1 minute and <6 at 5 minutes) was significantly associated with birth weight, gestational age and mode of delivery. Low arterial blood pH (<7.01) at birth was significantly related to low Apgar score. One hundred fifty-nine infants died; these infants were significantly smaller (983 +/- 382 vs 1462 +/- 369 g), less mature (27 vs 31 weeks), had lower arterial blood pH (7.20 +/- 0.18 vs 7.31 +/- 0.11), had lower 1- (3[2,6] vs 7[4,8]) and 5-minute Apgar scores (6[4,8] vs 8[7,9]), and a greater incidence of low Apgar score (32% vs 6%) than did survivors.
Conclusions: Among the components of the Apgar score, respiratory effort, muscle tone, and reflex activity correlated well with one another; heart rate correlated less well; and color the least. Our data confirms the limited use of the Apgar score in preterm infants and demonstrates the different responses of the Apgar score's components.