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Severe sepsis is frequently complicated by organ failure and accompanied by high mortality. Patients surviving severe sepsis can have impaired health-related quality of life (HRQOL). The time course of changes in HRQOL in severe sepsis survivors after discharge from the intensive care unit (ICU) and during a general ward stay have not been studied.We performed a long-term prospective study in a medical-surgical ICU. Patients with severe sepsis (n = 170) admitted for >48 h were included in the study. We used the Short-form 36 to evaluate the HRQOL of severe sepsis patients before ICU and hospital stay and at 3 and 6 mo after ICU discharge. Furthermore, we compared the results for ICU admission and 6 mo after ICU discharge with those of an age-matched general Dutch population.At 6 mo after ICU discharge, 95 patients could be evaluated (eight patients were lost to follow-up, 67 died). HRQOL showed a multidimensional decline during the ICU stay and gradual improvement over the 6 mo after ICU discharge for the social functioning, vitality, role-emotional, and mental health dimensions. However, 6 mo after ICU discharge, scores for the physical functioning, role-physical, and general health dimensions were still significantly lower than preadmission values. Physical and Mental Component Scores changed significantly over time. In particular, the Mental Component Score showed a small decline at ICU discharge but recovered rapidly, and at 6 mo after ICU discharge had improved to near normal values. In addition, Short-form 36 scores were lower than those in a matched general population in six of the eight dimensions, with the exception of social functioning and bodily pain. Interestingly, the preadmission HRQOL in surviving patients was already lower in three of the eight dimensions (role-physical, mental health, and vitality) when compared with the general population.Severe sepsis patients demonstrate a sharp decline of HRQOL during ICU stay and a gradual improvement during the 6 mo after ICU discharge. Recovery begins after ICU discharge to the general ward. Nevertheless, recovery is incomplete in the physical functioning, role-physical, and general health dimensions at 6 mo after ICU discharge compared with preadmission status.