Currently, absolute indications for valve replacement during active infective endocarditis include severe heart failure, the presence of an infecting microorganism that is not susceptible to available antimicrobial agents, and, in patients with an infected prosthetic valve, an unstable device. Relative indications include an etiologic microorganism other than a susceptible Streptococcus, relapse after presumed effective therapy, evidence of intracardiac extension of the infection, two or more systemic emboli, vegetations large enough to be demonstrated by echocardiography, and, in patients with an infected prosthetic device, early disease and periprosthetic leak. With use of data from the medical literature, a study generated by the cardiovascular surgical group at the University of Alabama School of Medicine, and a brief cost analysis, a point system was constructed to assist in decision-making concerning surgery in patients with active infective endocarditis. The usefulness of this system will depend on experience generated from its utilization in a larger number of patients as well as new data relative to a more complete understanding of the risks and benefits of surgery in this condition. © 1985.