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Tom Morrison

Understanding the Apgar Score with Wolfram|Alpha

August 10, 2011 —
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Recently we released our pregnancy data content, accessible through various queries such as “pregnant 18 weeks” or “pregnant, fetus’s weight 5 lbs 4 oz”. To add to that data, we have created an Apgar score calculator and assessment tool.

The Apgar score is a value assigned to newborn babies within the first 5 to 10 minutes of life. This value is a quick assessment of the baby’s overall health based on 5 variables: the color of the baby’s body and extremities, pulse, reaction (e.g., facial expression, cry response) to stimulation of the nose or feet, muscle tension after stimulation, and respiratory activity. All of these variables can be described more simply as appearance, pulse, grimace, activity, and respiration. Not so coincidentally, the first letters of these descriptions form an acronym that corresponds to the physician who developed the scale, Dr. Virginia Apgar.

The Apgar variables are scored on a 3-point scale, with 2 considered to be the healthiest value and 0 the least healthy. For example, if a baby has a pinkish body color but blue arms and legs, a cry in response to stimulation, strong muscle tone, and normal pulse (> 100) and respiration rates, the infant would receive a score of 1 for appearance, 2 for pulse, 2 for grimace, 2 for activity, and 2 for respiration, with a total Apgar score of 9. Babies scoring between 7 and 10 are considered to be in good health. Scores between 4 and 6 are cause for concern, and 0 to 3 indicates that the infant is in danger and in need of immediate care.

The simplest way to assess the Apgar score, and access the tool within Wolfram|Alpha, is by typing in “Apgar score”. Each variable is presented in the order that it falls in within the acronym and can be manipulated by the user. After each change, the score is recalculated, and the interpretation of the score is presented at the bottom of the output.

Apgar score

You can also describe the variable values using natural language, and Wolfram|Alpha will interpret them as a score. For example, by typing in “pink body but blue or pale extremities, normal pulse, loud cry”, Wolfram|Alpha correctly interprets the values and calculates a score of 9 by assuming normal values for the remaining variables.

If you are curious about the meaning behind a given variable value, you can also enter the value and see its interpretation in the output:

Apgar appearance = 2 pulse = 1 grimace = 2 activity = 1 respiration = 2