Little is known about the differential long-term outcome from surgical and nonsurgical therapy in patients with chronic epilepsy. In the present study, 161 surgically or nonsurgically treated patients with drug-resistant temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE) were re-evaluated according to a detailed clinical, neuropsychological, and psychosocial protocol with a mean follow-up interval of 58 months. Freedom from seizures was achieved in 64% of the surgical group; yet 23% of the nonsurgical patients became seizure-free as a result of modifications in drug therapy. Generally, socioeconomic development was poorer in nonsurgical than in surgical patients. Freedom from seizures, employment, and the absence of depression were significant determinants of better quality of life. As for neuropsychological outcome, verbal memory impairment was common after left-sided temporal resection; however, there was no evidence of a marked progression of cognitive impairment after the first postoperative year. In nonsurgical patients, too, cognitive capacities were surprisingly stable over time, although persisting seizures and good baseline performance predicted a poorer neuropsychological outcome.