Virginia Apgar - An American Obstetrical Anesthesiologist

Virginia Apgar, (born June 7, 1909, Westfield, N.J., U.S.-died Aug. 7, 1974, New York, N.Y.), American physician, anesthesiologist, and medical researcher who developed the Virginia Apgar Score System, a method of evaluating an infant quickly after birth to examine its well-being and to decide if any instant medical intervention is required.

Virginia Apgar graduated from Mount Holyoke College in 1929 and from the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1933. After an internship at Presbyterian Hospital, New York City, she held residencies in the relatively new strong point of anesthesiology at the University of Wisconsin and then at Bellevue Hospital, New York City, in 1935-37.

In 1937 she grew to be the first woman board-certified anesthesiologist. The first professor of anesthesiology at the College of Physicians and Surgeons (1949-59), she was additionally the first woman physician to obtain the rank of full professor there. Additionally, from 1938 she used to be director of the department of anesthesiology at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center.

Virginia Apgar - An American Obstetrical Anesthesiologist

An interest in obstetric procedure, and particularly in the remedy of the newborn, led her to improve an easy device for shortly evaluating the condition and viability of newly delivered infants.

As finally introduced in 1952, the Virginia Apgar Score System depends on five easy observations to be made by delivery room personnel (nurses or interns) of the child inside one minute of birth and-depending on the outcomes of the first observation-periodically thereafter. The Virginia Apgar Score System quickly came into common use at some stage in the United States and used to be adopted by various other countries.

In 1959 Virginia Apgar left Columbia and took a diploma in public health from Johns Hopkins University. She headed the division of congenital malformations at the National Foundation-March of Dimes from 1959-67. She was once promoted to director of basic research at the National Foundation (1967-72), and she later grew to become senior vice president for medical affairs (1973-74). She cowrote the book Is My Baby All Right? (1972) with Joan Beck.

Changing perceptions of new child care

Though it can also seem that the Virginia Apgar score was once a spur-of-the-moment introduction in a hospital cafeteria, proof suggests that there used to be much more concept behind its development.

In 1950, there have been greater than 20 neonatal deaths per 1,000 live births in the United States, and Dr. Virginia Apgar was worried by these figures.

Anoxia - mainly due to obstetric anesthesia - was to blame for the majority of neonatal deaths. However, in the delivery room, the presence of medical workforce who have been professional in anesthesiology and resuscitation was once sparse.

Virginia Apgar - An American Obstetrical Anesthesiologist

Furthermore, there used to be no consensus on what a "normal" newborn state was, nor had been there any measures in place to determine which newborns required resuscitation.

The Virginia Apgar score filled this void, supplying five criteria that clinicians may want to use to determine a baby’s circumstance 1 minute after birth and whether they required medical assistance.

Most importantly, and as Dr. Virginia Apgar herself stated, the Apgar score "gets humans to seem to be at the baby." Finally, new child children were getting the interest they deserved.

A powerful role model for women in medicine

Despite practicing medicine at a time when gender inequality used to be at a peak, Dr. Virginia Apgar claimed that being a woman had not posed any serious barriers on her career.

"Women are liberated from the time they leave the womb," she once said, explaining her choice not to take phase in the women’s movement.

Behind closed doors, however, Dr. Virginia Apgar every so often spoke of her frustration surrounding disparities amongst men and women in medicine, especially when it got here to variations in pay - an imbalance that remains evident to this day.

Virginia Apgar - An American Obstetrical Anesthesiologist

"She was once an outstanding woman," Dr. Watterberg told us. "She provided an effective function model for women in medicine."

Since 1950, the neonatal dying charge in the U.S. has fallen dramatically, standing at round 5 per 1,000 stay births in 2010.

While the enchantment in neonatal survival cannot completely be attributed to Dr. Virginia Apgar, there is no doubt that her work performed a vast role, and it continues to be pivotal in neonatal care and research.

Her strategy to innovation speaks of empathy for the patient and a power to enhance practical solutions that now not only elevate awareness and exchange perception, however that can also be efficaciously translated into clinical practice.

By designing the Apgar score in a way that ought to be easily implemented in delivery rooms worldwide, Dr. Virginia Apgar established that easy solutions, capable of addressing complicated problems, can stand the check of time.

What is the Apgar score?

The Virginia Apgar score rates key health metrics like heart rate, respiration, muscle tone, reflex response, and color, on a scale from 0-10. This helps physicians prioritize which newborns need vital scientific interest and which do not. By inventing this simple test, Virginia Apgar has saved countless new lives and disproportionately contributed to the field of neonatal research and care.

Virginia Apgar - An American Obstetrical Anesthesiologist

And she was once a trailblazer in greater ways than one: She was one of 4 women accepted into Columbia’s scientific faculty in 1929, and, while Virginia Apgar was once at the start involved in pursuing a surgical residency, the chair of surgical treatment at Columbia discouraged her from pursuing that field, and encouraged her to enter anesthesiology instead. She did so and, at 29, she grew to become the sole practicing anesthetist at Columbia till the mid-1940s. And yet, when her division was once upgraded to a department, she used to be passed over for the chair position in want of a male colleague.

Apgar’s similarly work on genetics

It wasn’t until she invented the Virginia Apgar score that she began to earn the awareness that she deserved, however she didn’t stop there. She left Columbia, acquired a master’s degree in public health from Johns Hopkins University, and commenced her work on genetics.

Virginia Apgar became a public health recommend and joined what is now the March of Dimes Foundation to lead fundraising and public training efforts about congenital defects. In 1995, she was once inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame, and in 1973, she co-authored the landmark e book Is My Baby All Right?

Virginia Apgar died in 1974. A proud and independent woman, she gathered accolades and awards at some point of her existence and career. She in no way married. Asked why, she once said, “I haven’t found a man who can cook.”

This reporting is part of a series supported by a provide from the Bernard van Leer Foundation. The author’s views are no longer always those of the Bernard van Leer Foundation.

The woman behind the Apgar score

Dr. Virginia Apgar graduated from Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons as an M.D. in 1933, as one of simply 9 women in a classification of 90.

Despite her promising surgical skills, she specialized in anesthesia, as career possibilities for women in surgical operation have been confined at the time.

Following her training, Dr. Virginia Apgar grew to be the director of the newly set up Division of Anesthesia at the New York-Presbyterian Department of Surgery - the first woman to keep such a position.

In 1949, Dr. Virginia Apgar became a professor of anesthesiology at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, making her the first girl to preserve a full professorship at the university.

As a professor, she was able to focus greater of her attention on research. It was once at some point of this time that she developed her hobby in obstetric anesthesia, which was an understudied discipline of medicine.

Dr. Virginia Apgar’s breakthrough was once to observe shortly.

How the test is performed

The Virginia Apgar check is performed through a doctor, midwife, or nurse. The issuer examines the baby’s:

  • Heart rate
  • Breathing effort
  • Muscle tone
  • Reflexes
  • Skin color

Each category is scored with 0, 1, or 2, depending on the located condition.

Breathing effort:

  • If the infant is not breathing, the respiratory rating is 0.
  • If the respirations are gradual or irregular, the infant scores 1 for respiratory effort.
  • If the infant cries well, the respiratory score is 2.

Heart fee is evaluated by using stethoscope. This is the most important assessment:

  • If there is no heartbeat, the infant scores 0 for heart rate.
  • If heart rate is less than 100 beats per minute, the child scores 1 for heart rate.
  • If heart rate is higher than 100 beats per minute, the infant scores 2 for heart rate.

Muscle tone:

  • If muscles are loose and floppy, the infant scores 0 for muscle tone.
  • If there is some muscle tone, the infant scores 1.
  • If there is energetic motion, the infant scores 2 for muscle tone.

Grimace response or reflex irritability is a term describing response to stimulation, such as a mild pinch:

  • If there is no reaction, the infant scores 0 for reflex irritability.
  • If there is grimacing, the toddler scores 1 for reflex irritability.
  • If there is grimacing and a cough, sneeze, or energetic cry, the infant scores 2 for reflex irritability.

Skin color:

  • If the pores and skin color is pale blue, the infant scores 0 for color.
  • If the body is pink and the extremities are blue, the baby ratings 1 for color.
  • If the complete body is pink, the child scores 2 for color.

Limitations of the Apgar Score

It is important to recognize the barriers of the Virginia Apgar score. The Apgar score is an expression of the infant’s physiologic situation at one point in time, which includes subjective components. There are several factors that can influence the Virginia Apgar score, which include maternal sedation or anesthesia, congenital malformations, gestational age, trauma, and interobserver variability (6).

In addition, the biochemical disturbance needs to be large earlier than the score is affected. Elements of the score such as tone, color, and reflex irritability can be subjective, and partially depend on the physiologic maturity of the infant.

The score also may additionally be affected via variations in regular transition. For example, decrease initial oxygen saturations in the first few minutes want not prompt immediate supplemental oxygen administration; the Neonatal Resuscitation Program aims for oxygen saturation are 60-65% at 1 minute and 80-85% at 5 minutes (3).

The wholesome preterm infant with no proof of asphyxia can also get hold of a low score solely due to the fact of immaturity (7, 8). The incidence of low Virginia Apgar scores is inversely associated to birth weight, and a low score can’t predict morbidity or mortality for any individual infant (8, 9). As before stated, it additionally is inappropriate to use an Virginia Apgar score by myself to diagnose asphyxia.


The Virginia Apgar score describes the circumstance of the newborn child right away after beginning and, when exact applied, is a device for standardized assessment (18). It additionally presents a mechanism to file fetal-to-neonatal transition. Apgar scores do no longer predict person mortality or negative neurologic outcome.

However, based on population studies, Virginia Apgar scores of much less than 5 at 5 minutes and 10 minutes virtually confer an improved relative risk of cerebral palsy, and the degree of abnormality correlates with the chance of cerebral palsy.

Most infants with low Virginia Apgar scores, however, will not enhance cerebral palsy. The Virginia Apgar score is affected by using many factors, such as gestational age, maternal medications, resuscitation, and cardiorespiratory and neurologic conditions. If the Apgar score at 5 minutes is 7 or greater, it is not likely that peripartum hypoxia-ischemia induced neonatal encephalopathy.


The Virginia Apgar score does no longer predict individual neonatal mortality or neurologic outcome, and should not be used for that purpose.

It is inappropriate to use the Virginia Apgar score by myself to establish the diagnosis of asphyxia. The term asphyxia, which describes a method of varying severity and period as a substitute than a stop point, need to no longer be utilized to delivery activities except unique evidence of markedly impaired intrapartum or immediately postnatal gasoline change can be can be documented.

When a new child has an Virginia Apgar score of 5 or much less at 5 minutes, umbilical artery blood gasoline from a clamped section of umbilical twine be obtained. Submitting the placenta for pathologic examination may be valuable.

Perinatal fitness care professionals should be consistent in assigning an Virginia Apgar score at some point of resuscitation; therefore, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (the College) encourage use of an elevated Apgar score reporting form that debts for concurrent resuscitative interventions.

Thank you for reading this article. Do let me know for any queries in comment section below.

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