Purpose: This study was initiated to determine risk factors for Neisseria gonorrhoeae infection of the cervix in women seen for routine care in a hospital-based obstetrics and gynecology practice.
Patients and methods: Extensive clinical data and cervical culture specimens for N. gonorrhoeae were obtained prospectively from 1,441 women between the ages of 18 and 50. Fifty clinical factors were evaluated by multivariate analysis.
Results: Of the 1,441 patients tested, 25 (1.7 percent) had a positive culture result. The majority of infected women were asymptomatic. The following five factors were found to be associated independently with gonococcal infection: (1) sex with a partner who may have had gonorrhea or a urethral discharge within the prior three months, (2) endocervical bleeding induced by the initial swab, (3) age at first intercourse less than or equal to 16, (4) method of payment (Medicaid), and (5) low abdominal or pelvic pain. Race, a univariate risk factor, was not associated with gonorrhea when these other factors were considered. The risk of infection for women with none, one, two, or three or more of these multivariate risk factors was 0.2, 0.8, 2.9, and 9.8 percent, respectively.
Conclusion: Clinical data are helpful in identifying women at risk for gonorrhea. If resources are insufficient to evaluate all sexually active women, we suggest routine testing based on the presence of the multivariate risk factors identified.