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The Apgar Cycle: A New View of a Familiar Scoring System
  1. Joaquim M. B. Pinheiro (pinheij{at}
  1. Albany Medical Center


    Apgar scores are universally recorded, but they should no longer be used to guide resuscitation; thus, some authorities have suggested that the scores should be abandoned. However, the physiological relationships underlying the elements of the Apgar scoring system can be conceptualized as a cycle, wherein the five functions are linked by cardiorespiratory reflexes, and metabolically supported by the oxygen pathway. Respiratory effort represents both the main input into the system and its functional output (sustained respirations). The progressive deterioration of functions during asphyxia, and their recovery during resuscitation, are readily understood within the sequence. This depiction helps in learning concepts such as primary and secondary apnea and bradycardia. The visual model harmonizes the pedagogical and practical values of the Apgar scoring system, by placing the rapid assessment of respirations, heart rate and color during neonatal resuscitation (as taught in the Neonatal Resuscitation Program) in its broader physiological context. The understanding imparted by the Apgar cycle may directly enhance patient care during resuscitation, apart from the attribution of numerical scores.

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