Cyclosporin (CSA) has emerged as a medical alternative to colectomy in severe, steroid-refractory ulcerative colitis (UC) patients. This is the first formal quality-of-life study comparing such patients treated with intravenously administered cyclosporin with those treated surgically with colectomy. Quality-of-life analyses were conducted in all patients who underwent colectomy or received intravenous CSA for severe UC from 1991 to 1995 using the Inflammatory Bowel Disease Questionnaire, a visual-analog scale (VAS), and the Oresland scale, with additional questions regarding health care utilization and medication use. The 18 CSA-treated patients reported a better ability to sleep (p = 0.002; VAS), better stool consistency (p < 0.001; VAS), less abdominal or rectal pain (p = 0.009, VAS), and fewer daytime (p < 0.001; Oresland), nighttime (p = 0.006; Oresland), and daily trips to the toilet (p < 0.001; VAS) than the 46 surgical patients. The mean number and rate of hospitalizations within the first year was also lower in the CSA patients (p < 0.001 for both). The surgical patients reported fewer initial visits to their specialist (p < 0.001) and less medication use (p < 0.001; Oresland). Patients with severe steroid-refractory UC treated with intravenously administered CSA scored as well as or better than their surgical counterparts. The use of CSA in selected patients is substantiated both by clinical results and quality-of-life analysis.