- Background: Recent studies on clinical chorioamnionitis at term suggest that some patients with this diagnosis have neither intraamniotic infection nor intraamniotic inflammation. A false-positive diagnosis of clinical chorioamnionitis in preterm gestation may lead to unwarranted preterm delivery. Objective: We sought to determine the frequency of intraamniotic inflammation and microbiologically proven amniotic fluid infection in patients with preterm clinical chorioamnionitis. Study design: Amniocentesis was performed in singleton pregnant women with preterm clinical chorioamnionitis (<36 weeks of gestation). Amniotic fluid was cultured for aerobic and anaerobic bacteria and genital mycoplasmas and assayed for matrix metalloproteinase-8 concentration. Microbial invasion of the amniotic cavity was defined as a positive amniotic fluid culture; intraamniotic inflammation was defined as an elevated amniotic fluid matrix metalloproteinase-8 concentration of >23 ng/mL. Nonparametric and survival techniques were used for analysis. Results: Among patients with preterm clinical chorioamnionitis, 24% (12/50) had neither microbiologic evidence of intraamniotic infection nor intraamniotic inflammation. Microbial invasion of the amniotic cavity was present in 34% (18/53) and intraamniotic inflammation in 76% (38/50) of patients. The most common microorganisms isolated from the amniotic cavity were the Ureaplasma species. Finally, patients without microbial invasion of the amniotic cavity or intraamniotic inflammation had significantly lower rates of adverse outcomes (including lower gestational age at delivery, a shorter amniocentesis-to-delivery interval, acute histologic chorioamnionitis, acute funisitis, and significant neonatal morbidity) than those with microbial invasion of the amniotic cavity and/or intraamniotic inflammation. Conclusion: Among patients with preterm clinical chorioamnionitis, 24% had no evidence of either intraamniotic infection or intraamniotic inflammation, and 66% had negative amniotic fluid cultures, using standard microbiologic techniques. These observations call for a reexamination of the criteria used to diagnose preterm clinical chorioamnionitis.